Uttarakhand flood: Death toll climbs to 31; rescue operations continue
The death toll in the Uttarakhand flash flood has risen to 31 as five more dead bodies were recovered, authorities said on Tuesday. The incident occurred in the state's Chamoli district on Sunday as the water level in the Dhauliganga river suddenly rose. Rescue efforts are underway as authorities fear that over 30 workers are trapped inside a swamped tunnel in the Tapovan area.
The State Emergency Operation Centre said on Tuesday that 31 dead bodies have been recovered so far. It said that 175 people remain missing after Sunday's disaster. Over 30 of those missing are feared trapped inside a tunnel at the Tapovan power project in Chamoli. Around half a dozen people were also reported to have been injured in the incident.
On Sunday morning, the water in Dhauliganga river suddenly rose causing major damage to homes on the river's banks and also washing away the Rishiganga dam on the Alaknanda river. The sudden rise in the water level was apparently caused by a glacier burst. A portion of the Nanda Devi glacier is believed to have broken off, forming a lake that burst later.
Apart from leaving devastation in its path, the flood also caused 13 border villages of Joshimath to be cut off: Raini Palli, Pang, Lata, Suraithota, Suki, Bhalgaon, Tolma, Fagrasu, Long Segdi, Gahar, Bhangyul, Juwagwad, and Jugju.
As multiple agencies continue to investigate the cause of the incident, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the Parliament on Tuesday that satellite data showed that "a landslide triggered a snow avalanche covering approximately 14 sq. km area and causing a flash flood in the downstream of Rishi Ganga river." Prime Minister Narendra Modi is monitoring the situation, he said.
Authorities have supplied nearly 100 ration kits to the affected villages by helicopters. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat undertook an aerial survey of the affected areas on Tuesday. He also met the residents of the avalanche-hit villages and spoke to 12 workers rescued from the Tapovan tunnel. Additional heavy machines could be pressed into service to expedite the tunnel rescue operation, he said.
At least 70 people from Uttar Pradesh are feared missing in the flash flood. "As of now, 70 people from Uttar Pradesh are feared missing, including 34 from Lakhimpur Kheri, nine from Saharanpur, and five from Shravasti," Relief Commissioner of UP Sanjay Goyal told PTI.