U'khand glacier burst leaves seven dead, at least 125 missing
Seven bodies were recovered and at least 125 people went missing following a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river which broke a part of the Nanda Devi glacier at Joshimath in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district on Sunday, causing large-scale devastation and a massive avalanche in the Alaknanda river system.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said the numbers could be higher and announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in the "massive disaster".
Hydel power projects devastated
Two power projects - NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project and the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project - were extensively damaged with scores of labourers trapped in tunnels as the waters and sludge came rushing in.
Seven bodies have been recovered from one of the tunnels in Tapovan and a search for the rest of the missing people is underway by Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel, Rawat said on his return from a visit to the affected areas.
He said at least 125 people including two policemen were missing and the numbers could be higher as authorities of the damaged hydel projects are not in a position to give a precise figure.
A 13.2 MW small hydro project on the Rishiganga river was swept away in the glacier burst, but there is no danger of floods in the downstream areas as the water level has been contained.
This was conveyed to the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, at an emergency meeting held here on Sunday evening.
The extent of damage to the two hydel projects is being assessed by their management, he said.
The NCMC was also informed that people trapped in a hydropower project tunnel were rescued by the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), while efforts are on to rescue those trapped in another tunnel. The operation is being coordinated by the Army and the ITBP, an official spokesperson said.
Two teams of the NDRF (35-45 personnel each) have been sent and three additional teams have been flown in from Hindon airport in Ghaziabad.
All efforts are focussed at the moment to pull out those feared trapped inside the other tunnels that are clogged with 35-40 feet of debris, Rawat said.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the National Disaster Response Force personnel have penetrated up to 150 metres into the 250-metre-long tunnel but they have not been able to contact any of the trapped employees or workmen, he said.
Roads and bridges damaged
One motorable road and four suspension bridges connecting 7-8 villages in the area with the district headquarters have also been washed away by the avalanche.
The disconnected villages include Gahar, Bhangyun, Raini Palli, Pang Lata, Suraithota, Tolma and Fagrasu.
Arrangements have been made to continue uninterrupted supplies of essentials to these villages, Rawat said.
Chamoli District Magistrate Swati S Bhadoriya and Superintendent of Police P Yashwant Singh Chauhan are camping at the site, the chief minister said.
There are 17 gram sabha areas affected by the avalanche, out of which 11 are inhabited while the residents of the rest had moved to lower areas during the winter, Rawat said.
All arrangements are in place to deal with any eventuality including IAF and private helicopters which are on stand-by.
Centre assures help
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Rawat and assured him of all possible support to deal with the situation arising from the glacier burst and the resulting floods.
In a series of tweets in Hindi, Shah also said teams of the NDRF were deployed for rescue and relief operations of the affected people while additional troops of the force were being airlifted from Delhi.
"I have spoken to Chief Minister @tsrawatbjp ji, DG ITBP and DG NDRF regarding the natural disaster in Uttarakhand. All the concerned officers are working on a war footing to secure the people. NDRF teams have left for rescue operations. Every possible help will be provided to 'Devbhoomi'," he said.
Shah said the central government is constantly monitoring the situation in Uttarakhand.
"Some more teams of NDRF are being airlifted from Delhi and sent to Uttarakhand. We are constantly monitoring the situation there," he said.