Chamoli (Uttarakhand) (IANS): Nearly 150 people are missing or “feared dead” as a sudden flood inundated a power project at Reni village in Joshimath area of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday following a glacier burst, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which is engaged in rescue and relief operations there, said.
Citing updated inputs received from local administration, ITBP spokesperson Vivek Pandey told IANS at least 10 bodies have been recovered so far from the spot, and several people have been rescued, while that there is no information about other persons.
In its initial information received from the spot, the ITBP had, through a statement that “more than 100 labourers at the barrage and 50 plus in the tunnel lost their life as per the incharge of Tapovan NTPC work site… As many as 150 people are missing”.
Clarifying these inputs, Pandey said: “As 150 people are still missing, it is difficult to say that all are dead. They can be said ‘feared dead’ or ‘missing’. Missing persons cannot be declared dead till seven years.”
The tragedy took place after the water level in Dhauliganga river, one of the six sources of the Ganga river, suddenly surged on Sunday morning following an avalanche near the Rishi Ganga power project. The 85 km river meets the Alaknanda river at Vishnuprayag at the base of Joshimath mountain.
The ITBP said that the flash flood occurred in Rishi Ganga at around 10.45 a.m. due to a glacier falling into it and exponentially increasing the volume of water.
Due to this, the Rishi Ganga hydro project was completely devastated, it said.
“The BRO bridge on Joshimath highway was also completely washed away. There were six graziers with their livestock there and they were also swept away by the flash flood,” the ITBP said.
“Rishiganga meets Dhauliganga near Reni village. So Dhauliganga also got flooded. Five to six houses of the village were also washed away. An NTPC project on river Dhauliganga near Tapovan was completely devastated. Two ‘Jhula’ bridges connecting villages on the other side of the river were also washed away.
“Two bodies were recovered at Tapovan NTPC site. One more was recovered from Chamoli village near Tapovan. About 16 to 17 labourers are safe inside the tunnel,” the ITBP said, adding that an operation to rescue them was on.
Around 250 personnel of ITBP are carrying out rescue and search operations on the site. The paramilitary force said connectivity of its border outposts was totally restricted due to the bridge destruction near Reni village.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who put the number of missing at 125, expressed sorrow over the loss of lives in the incident and declared Rs 4 lakh compensation to the family of those whose bodies have been recovered from the spot. Rawat, who visited the spot, is taking stock of the situation and supervising rescue and relief operations.
Though the impact of the disaster may not be felt in Rishikesh and Haridwar, the temple towns have been put on alert.
A government spokesman said that there was not much human habitation at the site where the glacier broke apart, but a number of power projects have been hit.
The government has appealed to the people not to venture near the Ganga river.
India’s President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have spoken to the Chief Minister to take stock of the situation in the state.
The Prime Minister, during his Assam tour, reviewed the situation in Uttarakhand during a telephonic conversation with Rawat and other top officials, and the rescue and relief work underway.
The Prime Minister, in a tweet, said that he is constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand.
“India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there. Have been continuously speaking to senior authorities and getting updates on NDRF deployment, rescue work and relief operations.”
Meanwhile, Shah also spoke to Rawat and ITBP Director General S.S. Deswal.
Shah said that four National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams are being airlifted to Dehradun to reach Joshimath.