New Delhi, Feb 8 (efe-epa).- At least 19 people were confirmed dead and more than 200 missing on Monday, a day after a Himalayan glacier broke away in northern India, triggering a burst of mud, water and rocks and setting off a massive rescue operation in the ecologically fragile area.
The disaster occurred in the Chamoli district of the Himalayan Uttarakhand when the glacier ruptured on Sunday morning, forcing the emergency evacuation of thousands of people.
“At least 202 people have been reported missing from the disaster yesterday while as 19 bodies have been recovered from various places,” the Uttarakhand police said in its latest statement.
The administration is with you in this hour of sadness and mourning. Please keep cooperating. Rescue and relief operation is on in full swing.”
Much of the rescue work focuses on searching for workers at two under-construction hydropower plants affected by the avalanche, where authorities initially estimated that 146 workers are missing.
Rescue teams worked through the night to search for around 30 workers trapped in a tunnel under construction near one of the power plants after successfully rescuing 12 workers in another tunnel on Sunday evening.
“The operation to rescue the people trapped in a tunnel is underway. Efforts are on to clear the tunnel with the help of (earthmovers and pile drivers),” Chamoli police said.
On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a compensation of 200,000 Indian rupees (nearly $2,800) for the families of those who died in the catastrophe and 50,000 rupees for those seriously injured.
Videos, captured using cellphones and shared on social media of the avalanche struck, show the sudden surge of a large column of mud and water along a riverbed, gushing through the valley slopes with force and destroying at least one of the hydroelectric power plants in its path.
The mountainous region in the Himalayas experienced floods, landslides, and the collapse of buildings in June 2013 after the monsoon season came a month early that year and produced 68 percent more rain than the average.
About 7,000 died or went missing in that tragedy, many of them Hindu pilgrims who had gone to Uttarakhand to visit some of the most prominent places of worship, and where the Ganges river, considered spiritually sacred by the Hindus, also originates. EFE-EPA