India (NBC) (02/08/21)— At least 150 people were feared dead after a Himalayan glacier burst, sending a massive flood of water and debris crashing into two dams in India, officials said Sunday.
Rescue workers recovered two bodies as they fought to save the workers at the dam sites in the Chamoli district, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said on Twitter.
“My prayers are with every missing worker,” he wrote, adding that the focus is on finding people who might be stuck in underground tunnels. He did not elaborate on where the tunnels might be.
A video shared by Uttarakhand police and Indo-Tibetan border police showed a man being pulled alive from one of the tunnels. It was not immediately clear whether he was a local resident or one of the workers.
Rawat said 600 personnel from the Indian army, the border police and an engineering task force were on standby to deal with the aftermath.
One hundred to 150 people were feared dead, Om Prakash, Uttarakhand’s chief secretary, was quoted as saying by The Times of India newspaper.
More than 50 people were working at one of the dams, the Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project, Uttarakhand Police Chief Ashok Kumar said at a news conference, adding that some people had been rescued.
Authorities had evacuated other dams to contain the water rushing in from the flooded Alakananda River, he said. Uttarakhand police and Rawat tweeted that people with homes along the river were being evacuated.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the nation was praying for everyone’s safety, while President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted that he was “deeply worried.”
Video obtained by Reuters showed water gushing toward one of the dams, washing away parts of it. NBC News could not independently verify the video. Social media videos, which NBC News was also working to verify, showed floodwater and debris streaming through the area.
Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives on the upper reaches of Raini village, told Reuters that he saw a wall of dust, rock and water as an avalanche roared down a river valley.
“It came very fast. There was no time to alert anyone,” he said. “We have no idea how many people are missing.”
Uttarakhand in the Himalayas is prone to flash floods and landslides. In June 2013, record rainfall caused devastating floods that killed close to 6,000 people.
That disaster was dubbed the “Himalayan tsunami” by the media because of the torrents of water unleashed in the mountainous area, which sent mud and rocks crashing down, burying homes and sweeping away buildings, roads and bridges.