In northern India, in the Himalayas, the rupture of a glacier caused a devastating avalanche in the Dhauliganga river bed on Sunday 7 February in the Uttarakhand region. That morning, streams of water, rocks and mud from a huge mass of ice that fell into the river caused extensive damage. A hydroelectric dam, bridges and roads were swept away, two hydroelectric power stations were badly damaged and access to several villages was blocked.
Among the 200 missing, many are employees of hydroelectric plants swept away by the flood. On Sunday evening a dozen of them, trapped in a tunnel, managed to escape, but many people remain missing. The rescue operation is still in progress. Tuesday 9th February 31 bodies were found, 206 people remained missing.
Indian ecologist Vimlendhu Jha highlighted the role of climate change in this disaster
The reasons for this natural disaster are not yet known, knowing that a glacier break in winter remains very rare. Scientists suspect a buildup of water inside the glacier, which may have triggered its rupture, but evaluations are always needed.
Indian ecologist Vimlendhu Jha on Twitter stressed the role of climate change in this disaster and condemned it “ arbitrary construction of roads and hydroelectric plants in environmentally sensitive areas “. These constructions are problematic due to frequent flooding in the Uttarakhand region and increase the level of damage.
The Himalayas are a region vulnerable to climate change: based on glacier observation data since 1975, a 2016 study recorded a drop of 30 % of the ice mass, as well as an acceleration of ice melt since the 2000s.
The Uttarakhand region was already hit by an ecological disaster in 2013: after the monsoon, extreme floods killed several thousand people.
- Photo: © Times of India