2/2 © Reuters. A view of the dam damaged after a Himalayan glacier broke and crashed into the dam at Raini Chak Lata 2/2
By Devjyot Ghoshal and Saurabh Sharma NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Up to 150 people were feared to die in northern India after a Himalayan glacier ruptured and crashed into a dam early Sunday, with flooding forcing the evacuation of the villages downstream. “The actual number has not yet been confirmed,” but between 100 and 150 people were feared to die, Om Prakash, chief secretary of the state of Uttarakhand where the incident occurred, told Reuters. A witness reported a wall of dust, rocks, and water when an avalanche roared through a river valley. “It came very quickly, there was no time to alert anyone,” Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives in the upper part of Raini village, told Reuters by phone. “I felt that even we would be swept away.” Locals fear that people working on a nearby hydroelectric project have been swept away, as well as villagers wandering near the river looking for firewood or grazing their livestock, Rana said. “We have no idea how many people are missing.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was closely monitoring the situation. “India supports Uttarakhand and the nation prays for the safety of everyone there,” he said on Twitter after speaking with the state’s prime minister. The Indian air force was preparing to assist with rescue operations, the federal government said, while Interior Minister Amit Shah said disaster response teams were being airlifted to assist with relief and rescue. “All concerned officers are working on the warpath,” Shah said on Twitter, referring to Uttarakhand by its nickname, the Hindi term for “land of the gods,” due to the many Hindu temples and pilgrimage centers located throughout the world. state. The neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous, also put its riparian areas on high alert. Images shared by locals showed the water washing away parts of the dam, as well as anything else that was in its way. Videos on social media, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed water flowing through a small dam, dragging construction equipment. “The flow of the Alaknanda River beyond the Nandprayag (stretch) has become normal,” Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said on Twitter. “The water level in 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 rains caused devastating floods that claimed nearly 6,000 lives. That disaster was described by the media as the “Himalayan tsunami” due to the torrents of water that unleashed in the mountainous area, which threw mud and rocks that collapsed, buried houses, destroyed buildings, roads and bridges. Uma Bharti, India’s former minister of water resources and a top leader of Modi’s party, criticized the construction of an energy project in the area. “When I was a minister I had requested that the Himalayas be a very sensitive place, so energy projects should not be built on the Ganges and its main tributaries,” she said on Twitter, referring to the main river that flows from the mountain.