Uttarakhand avalanche: 170 still missing, search operation continues

Many people have died and 170 are still missing after a glacial break in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district triggered an avalanche and massive flooding of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers on Sunday morning, forcing the evacuation of thousands, and damaging both houses and the nearby Rishiganga and NTPC power projects.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has announced Rs 4 lakh compensation for the family of those killed. Rawat also said teams from the police, the Army and the ITBP, as well as from the national and state disaster response forces, were “doing their best to save the lives of the workers at sites affected by the disaster”.

An early survey of the damage caused by the glacier break and flood to Uttarakhand’s Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower plant shows the dam has been “completely washed off”, Indian Air Force sources said on Sunday.

Pictures from reconnaissance flights showed the dam, located at the confluence of Dhauliganga and Rishiganga rivers – around 280 km east of state capital Dehradun, destroyed. Two bridges at the entrance of Malari valley and near Tapovan have been washed away as well.

The main road between Joshimath and Tapovan, however, is intact. Construction work and hutments in the valley have been damaged. “Rubble [was] seen from the entrance of Nanda Devi glacier till as down as Pipalkoti and Chamoli along Dhauliganga and Alaknanda,” Air Force sources said.

Owned by the state-run NTPC Limited, the 520 MW Tapovan hydro-electric project was being constructed at a cost of nearly ₹ 3,000 crore.

Several people working at the facility are among the 170 missing in the carnage triggered on Sunday by the glacier break near Raini village above Rishiganga river.