15 dead, scores missing in India after glacier bursts dams

Rescuers work to excavate tunnels in northern India to gain access to those trapped after a glacier burst, causing flash flooding that filled them with debris. Photo courtesy of ADG PI - Indian Army/Twitter

Feb. 8 (UPI) — The death toll rose to 15 on Monday as rescuers continued to search for scores still missing following the destruction wrought a day earlier when a Himalayan glacier broke, triggering massive flooding through northern India.

The Chamoli Police in Uttarakhand state, which borders Tibet, said via Twitter on Monday that a 15th body had been recovered by rescue operations after the glacier burst Sunday causing flooding that wiped out two hydroelectric dam projects and most of their workers.

Trivendra Singh Rawat, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, tweeted Sunday that more than 150 workers were missing following the flash flooding that wiped out the National Thermal Power Corporation’s Tapovan Vishnugad project and the Rishi Ganga Power Corporation Ltd. endeavor, both of which reside in Chamoli.

The Chamoli Police said operations by National Disaster Response Force, the State Disaster Response Fund, the Indo-Tibetan Border police and other agencies continued to clear debris from a tunnel at the NTPC site where workers are feared trapped.

Fifteen people had previously been rescued from the site, it said.

The ITBP said excavators had been deployed to the site.

Ashok Kumar, the chief of police in Uttarakhand, told the public not to spread panic.

“Relief and rescue operations are being done on a war footing,” he said. “Cooperate with the administration.”

Rawat tweeted that Raini village reported the disaster at 10:45 a.m. IST Sunday, and that all the villages in low-lying areas had been evacuated and nearly 1,000 people from various agencies had been dispatched to aid in the rescue operation.

“Police SDRF Army & ITBP teams are already doing their best to save lives of the workers at both the construction sites affected by the disaster,” he said.

“Medical teams have been rushed to the affected site,” he said. “We are doing our best to deal with this disaster.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he has approved for the next of kin of those who died during disaster to receive about $2,745 and those who were seriously injured to receive about $686.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for the United Nations secretary general, said in a statement Sunday that Antonio Guterres sends his condolences to the families of the victims.

“The United Nations stands ready to contribute to ongoing rescue and assistance efforts if necessary,” he said.


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