Visuals of the disaster that struck Kedarnath in June 2013 came alive Sunday as videos of Uttarakhand’s Dhauliganga river – turned into a torrent of mud and rocks after a glacier break at Joshimath triggered an avalanche and flash floods – were widely shared online.
Ten bodies have been recovered so far, and around 150 labourers working at two power plants in the Tapovan region are still missing.
Disaster struck at 10.55 am, after an avalanche near Raini, a village close to the Dhauliganga river, which is a sub-tributary of the Alaknanda. The floods wiped out everything in its path.
“We have taken out two dead bodies from the water close to Tapovan. There were two projects – NTPC and Rishiganga – and the project people told us around 150 labourers are reported missing. We hope they will be safe and found soon,” Ridhim Agarwal, SSP, Uttarakhand STF, said.
A third body was later recovered from the same location.
Officers and employees of the Chamoli District administration and SDRF personnel, who had been strategically placed near the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun to facilitate rescue efforts, were joined by personnel from the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) in working on war footing.
Emergency teams were rushed from Dehradun, as soon as news reached the state capital.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who reached Chamoli this afternoon, told reporters: “As work at Rishiganga power project (and) a railway line project was going on full steam, the safety of labourers is of paramount importance. People were alerted and evacuated to higher grounds. The flow of the Bhagirathi river had been stopped at the GVK dam, and Veerbhadra dam in Rishikesh has been drained to accommodate rising water levels of Alaknanda.”
Mr Rawat also said all river rafting operations had been stopped.
The state has appealed to people living along the Ganga and Alaknanda riverbanks to move to higher ground. The Chief Minister also appealed to people to not panic and to not believe rumours. He said his government was taking all the necessary steps to control the situation and save lives.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in Assam to campaign for Assembly polls, tweeted: “Am constantly monitoring the unfortunate station 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.”