A Himalayan glacier broke in northern India on Sunday, releasing a deluge of water and debris, which in its turn, swept away a hydroelectric dam. The flooding has forced the evacuation of villages downstream and at least nine people have been reported dead and 140 missing. According to experts, this catastrophe points to climate change, reports Phys.org.
India’s northern state of Uttarakhand has released a video that shows how a wall of water, rock and dust descend through a valley and hit a dam, breaking it into pieces only to continue with little resistance downstream.
Reuters spoke to several witnesses by phone that described the incident: “It came very fast, there was no time to alert anyone,” said Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives on the upper reaches of the river in Raini village. “I felt that even we would be swept away.”
In the morning, part of Nanda Devi glacier snapped off causing the strong flooding, which has turned the landscape into an ash-colored moonscape, said authorities.
Vivek Pandey, a spokesman for the paramilitary Indo Tibetan Border Police, said that a hydroelectric plant on the Alaknanda was destroyed, and a plant under construction on the Dhauliganga was damaged.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, Uttarakhand's top elected official, said authorities were able to save other power units downstream because of timely action taken to release water by opening gates.
Over 2,000 military members, paramilitary groups and police have taken part in the search-and-rescue operation, including soldiers expert in mountaineering. It is feared that 150 people could have been killed or injured, a large number of which are workers at the 13.2 MW Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project which was destroyed by the bursting of the glacier.
“India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.
The same region was victim of landslides and flooding after heavy rains in 2013 washed away thousands of homes and roads, killing thousands of citizens.