LUCKNOW, India – Indian authorities launched a search hunt on Sunday after a section of a mountain glacier broke, causing massive flooding and debris breaking into two dams and damaging numerous homes. At least nine were killed and 140 are missing.
A section of the Nanda Devi Glacier was flooded on Sunday morning in the Tapovan area of northern Uttarakhand. A video shared by authorities and taken from the side of a steep hill shows a wall of water rising in one of the dams and breaking it into pieces with little resistance before roaring downhill.
The Rishikanga hydropower plant was destroyed, while the Tuliganga hydropower plant was damaged, said Vivek Pandey, a spokesman for the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Both are located on the Alaknanda River, which flows from the Himalayas to the Ganges.
Pandey said at least 16 workers were trapped near a tunnel in the Tulikanga project. He said another 140 workers were missing from the two factories.
Nine bodies have been recovered so far as rescue operations intensify, police official Surjeet Singh said.
Government spokesman Ravi Bejaria said some houses were also damaged in the floods.
Authorities said water and soil and other debris trapped behind the iceberg were sent to the bottom of the mountain and to other bodies of water. People living on the banks of the Alaknanda River were advised to move to safer places immediately.
Authorities evacuated two dams below the river to prevent floodwaters from closing the popular tourist spots on the banks of the Ganges River and flooding the cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh where all boating was halted. In the Himalayas there is a chain of power projects on the Alaknanda River and its tributaries.
Uttarakhand Police Chief Ashok Kumar said the authorities immediately alerted the residents living in the area and evacuated them to safer places.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet that he was “constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation”. He added: “India stands with Uttarakhand, where the nation prays for the safety of all.”
In 2013, heavy rains in Uttarakhand caused landslides and floods, washed away thousands of homes and roads and cut off communication links in many parts of the state.
The story was corrected to show that officers began their search operation on Sunday, not Saturday.