Dozens of people are feared dead in India after a Himalayan glacier broke apart and crashed into a hydroelectric dam with people hurriedly being evacuated amid rising water levels on a nearby river.
Footage from TV channels and news agency ANI showed water gushing towards the dam in the state of Uttarakhand on Sunday, washing away parts of it and whatever else was in its path.
Om Prakash, chief secretary of Uttarakhand state, said as many as 150 people were feared dead but “the actual number has not been confirmed yet”.
A witness said he saw a wall of dust, rocks and water as an avalanche roared down a river valley.
“It came very fast, there was no time to alert anyone,” Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives on the upper reaches of Raini village, told the Reuters news agency by phone. “I felt that even we would be swept away.”
Local authorities reported that districts including Pauri, Tehri, Rudraprayag, Haridwar and Dehradun, were put on high alert.
“The news of relief is that the flow of Alaknanda River … has become normal,” Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said on Twitter. “The water level of the river is now 1 metre [3 feet] above normal but the flow is decreasing.”
‘The nation prays’
The Times of India newspaper quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as saying he was monitoring the 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 … rescue work and relief operations,” said Modi.
Uttarakhand in the Himalayas is prone to flash floods and landslides. In June 2013, record rainfall caused devastating floods that killed close to 6,000 people.
That disaster was dubbed the “Himalayan tsunami” by the media because of the torrents of water unleashed in the mountainous area, which sent mud and rocks crashing down, burying homes, sweeping away buildings, roads and bridges.