Uttarakhand glacier bursts: Panic and memories of 2013 floods | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Uttarakhand glacier bursts: Panic and memories of 2013 floods

By, Ankur Sharma, Haldwani, Dehradun
Feb 08, 2021 06:54 AM IST

Till Sunday night, rescuers have pulled out seven bodies from a tunnel while at least 170 people are missing or feared dead after a glacier lake breach in Chamoli triggered a massive avalanche and floods in the swollen Alaknanda river.

Rakesh Dhimri, a 42-year-old resident of Raini village in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, was sipping on his tea on an idle Sunday morning around 10am when he heard a loud sound of angry waters gushing in.

People inspect the site near the damaged Dhauliganga hydropower project at Reni village in Chamoli district after a portion of Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Tapovan area of the northern state of Uttarakhand, Sunday, Feb.7, 2021.(AP)
People inspect the site near the damaged Dhauliganga hydropower project at Reni village in Chamoli district after a portion of Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Tapovan area of the northern state of Uttarakhand, Sunday, Feb.7, 2021.(AP)

Alarmed, he got up from his chair and went outside his house to enquire. What he saw rekindled his memories of the deadly Kedarnath floods of 2013 that killed about 5,700 people. “The first thing that came to my mind after seeing the swollen Rishiganga river (it becomes Alaknanda in Chamoli city) was the Kedarnath tragedy in which thousands died. I and my family members were just praying to god to protect us,” Dhimri said.

Also read: Heavy damage to two hydel projects at the epicentre in Uttarakhand glacier burst

Till Sunday night, rescuers have pulled out seven bodies from a tunnel while at least 170 people are missing or feared dead after a glacier lake breach in Chamoli triggered a massive avalanche and floods in the swollen Alaknanda river. Raini village and two power projects – NTPC’s Tapovan hydel project and the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project – suffered damage as waters and sludge came rushing downstream.

“God has saved me…I cannot believe I am alive,” said a worker rescued at the Tapovan project. “We were working inside a tunnel and got no time to respond. I was saved as I hooked myself into one corner,” he said.


Through the day, panic hung in the air in the sparsely populated mountainous region close to India’s borders with China and Nepal. Though survivors were relieved after Alaknanda water levels went down after at least two hours, they were still in shock.

Mahendra Prakash Semwal, a resident of Chamoli town, about 24km from the Rishi Ganga project, summed up the emotions.


“We were just holding our breath with all our eyes on the Alaknanda river…,” he said, adding that the anxious wait continued till the water level receded. “We would, however, not sleep tonight out of panic,” he added.

Several Chamoli residents questioned authorities on setting up the two power projects there despite resistance by a section of locals and environmentalists.

“The government should have assessed all the aspects before setting up the projects in the area,” said Pradeep Farswan, a resident.

NK Joshi, Chamoli district disaster management officer, said panic gripped residents after the incident. “…we tried to handle that by making announcements in the area on mic, urging people to stay away from the river and get to safety.”

Also read | Uttarakhand glacier burst: Experts cite impact of climate crisis

“We also took to social media, actively urging them not to pay heed to any rumours, including some old, unrelated videos. Despite that, many were still in panic, which subsided only after the water level in the river came down to normal,” said Joshi.

The personnel from the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) were among the first to respond to the tragedy.

“People feared that a Kedarnath-like tragedy may happen again,” said an SDRF rescuer who rushed for relief work at the Rishi Ganga project.

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