Adobe Stock

A Himalayan glacier fell into a river in northern India on Sunday. It pushed a massive surge of water, rocks, trees and debris down a narrow mountain valley. More than 170 people are missing and 26 have lost their lives.

13 Villages Swallowed by Snow and Ice

The event took place in the two hydroelectric projects in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district. The avalanche crashed through a dam at the state-owned hydroelectric project, pushing its way down the valley destroying homes and lives. So far 26 bodies have been recovered and 35 workers are believed to be trapped in a large tunnel at a hydroelectric project.

An estimated 2,500 people in 13 villages were isolated by flooding produced by the avalanche. On Monday all 13 villages were reached by rescuers and relief efforts. At the moment rescue workers are working to clear the large tunnel from debris where 35 workers are believed to be trapped. The Indian Army personnel have been working tirelessly to find and rescue as many people as possible. They rescued 12 people Sunday from a smaller tunnel.

Catastrophic Damage to Power Plants

At a press conference Sunday, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat spoke of the devastating disaster Uttarakhand had witnessed and the lives and infrastructure that were lost. Two hydropower projects took the bulk of the destruction. The first, was the Rishiganga Power project, a fairly small 13.2 megawatts dam that was completely obliterated. The second, further down, was a larger 520 megawatt hydro project that was under construction.

The Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project site, state-owned by NTPC, the largest power plant in India, had nearly 176 workers on the job when the flood hit. The project site has two tunnels and more than 30 workers could be trapped in the second tunnel. In a tweet, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the nation that he was monitoring the situation and keeping in close contact with senior authorities.

Caused by Global Warming?

Experts are saying that this incident was induced by human-made global warming. That climate change is altering the region and that more events like this are going to occur.

On the other hand, there are many small villages throughout the mountain valleys and those need more development, from infrastructure to roads. Discussions of what are the best developments for those areas are ongoing and how it would impact the environment.

This region of the Himalayas is vulnerable to landslides and flooding. Environmentalist have warned that the global rise in temperatures, due to man-made climate changes, could have devastating events in this region of the world. When the ice melts it forms glacier lakes.

When the glacier in front of the lake breaks free it can cause massive flooding. Some people think that rapid construction in the area is to blame. The increased number of hydroelectric projects and dams with widespread development.