Over 150 people have lost their lives and over 150 are missing following a massive flood near a power project at Reni village in Joshimath area of Uttarakhand's Chamoli district on Sunday, officials said.
The ITBP said that the flash flood occurred in Rishi Ganga at around 10.45 am 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.
"More than 100 labourers at the barrage and 50 plus in the tunnel lost their life as per the in charge of Tapovan NTPC work site. As many as 150 people are missing," the ITBP said.
"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. Our team is working to rescue them."
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 bridge destruction near Reni village.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has convened an emergency meeting to take stock of the situation and to supervise 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.
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, Home Minister Shah also spoke to Rawat and Into-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) Director-General S.S. Deswal.
Shah said that four National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams are being airlifted to Dehradun to reach Joshimath.
Though the impact of the disaster may not be felt in Rishikesh and Haridwar, the towns have been put on alert.
The government has also appealed to the people not to venture near the Ganga river.
UP on high alert
Authorities in Uttar Pradesh has been put on high alert after a part of Nanda Devi Glacier broke in Uttarakhand, official sources said on Sunday. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed all District Magistrates of UP districts situated along the Ganga river to be on high alert and monitor water levels continuously, a government spokesman said.
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.
That disaster was dubbed the "Himalayan tsunami" 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.
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.
Environmental experts called for a halt to big hydroelectric projects in the state.
"This disaster again calls for a serious scrutiny of the hydropower dams building spree in this eco-sensitive region," said Ranjan Panda, a volunteer for the Combat Climate Change Network that works on water, environment and climate change issues.
"The government should no longer ignore warnings from experts and stop building hydropower projects and extensive highway networks in this fragile ecosystem."
-to be updated with additional inputs
-with agency inputs
First Published: Feb 7, 2021 2:20 PM IST