LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Indian authorities launched a search operation Saturday after part of a mountain glacier broke, sending a massive flood of water, mud and debris into areas below and damaging homes and a power plant.
A portion of Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Tapovan area of the northern state of Uttarakhand on Sunday morning, damaging the Rishiganga hydel power project, said police official Rishi Khemka.
At least 150 people were working at the plant and their fate was unknown, the Press Trust of India news agency reported, citing Ridhim Aggarwal, an official of the State Disaster Response Force.
Ravi Bejaria, a government spokesman, said some houses were also damaged in the flooding.
Officials said the glacier breaking sent water trapped behind it as well as mud and other debris surging down the mountain and into other bodies of water. An advisory was issued urging people living on the banks of the Alaknanda River to move to safer places immediately.
Several teams of rescuers were rushed to the affected area, officials said.
The neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous, also put its riverside areas on high alert.
Footage shared by locals showed the water washing away parts of the dam as well as whatever else was in its path.
Videos on social media, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed water surging through a small dam site, washing away construction equipment.
“The flow of the Alaknanda River beyond Nandprayag (stretch) has become normal,” Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said on Twitter.
“The water level of the river is now 1 meter above normal but the flow is decreasing.”
Uttarakhand in the Himalayas is prone to flash floods and landslides. In June 2013, record rainfall caused devastating floods that claimed close to 6,000 lives.ADVERTISEMENT
That disaster was dubbed the “Himalayan tsunami” by the media due to the torrents of water unleashed in the mountainous area, which sent mud and rocks crashing down, burying homes, sweeping away buildings, roads and bridges.
Uma Bharti, India’s former water resources minister and a senior leader of Modi’s party, criticised the construction of a power project in the area.
“When I was a minister I had requested that Himalaya is a very sensitive place, so power projects should not be built on Ganga and its main tributaries,” she said on Twitter, referring to the main river that flows from the mountain.
In 2013, more than 1,000 people were killed in Uttarakhand heavy rains triggered landslides and floods, washing away thousands of houses and roads and cutting communication links in many parts of the state.