150 missing, three bodies recovered in Uttarakhand flash floods

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A glacial break in the Tapovan-Reni area of Chamoli District of Uttarakhand on Sunday led to massive flooding in Dhauli Ganga and Alaknanda Rivers, damaging houses and the nearby Rishiganga power project. Sources said there were 100 laborers on the barrage at Rishiganga of which at least 50 are feared dead. About 150 people are missing according to the latest reports, even as three dead bodies have been fished out.

Sources said teams from ITBP, which has a base at Joshimath, about 26 km from Reni, along with units of the State Disaster Response Force have reached the spot. National Disaster Response Force teams stationed in Uttarakhand have also left for the spot, sources said.

“At around 10:45 hours flash flood occurred in river Rishiganga due to the falling of glaciers in the river which exponentially increased the volume of water. Due to this, the Rishiganga hydro project near Raini village was completely devastated. The BRO bridge on Joshimath-Malaria highway was also completely washed away. There were six graziers with their livestock and they were also taken away by flashflood. Rishiganga meets Dhauli Ganga near Raini. So Dhauli Ganga also got flooded. Five-six houses of the village were also washed away. There was an NTPC project on the river Dhauli Ganga near Tapovan. The entire project was completely devastated. Two Jhulla bridges connecting villages on the other side of the river also washed away,” an ITBP official said.

ITBP spokesperson Vivek Pandey said, “As of now it appears the worst is over as downstream the flow in Alaknanda does not appear to be very damaging and is under control. Three teams of ITBP personnel, around 250 men, are engaged in rescue at the moment.” The Tapovan Tunnel, where many laborers are trapped, has been completely blocked by debris. ITBP teams are removing the debris to rescue the trapped laborers.

Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat, who has rushed to the spot, said in a series of tweets that those residing near Alaknanda River are being evacuated even as flow in the Bhagirathi river, which meets Alaknanda at Devprayag to form Ganga, has been stopped. “In order to manage the flow in Alaknanda, the reservoirs at Rishikesh and Srinagar have been emptied,” Rawat said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Am constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand. India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there. Have been continuously speaking to senior authorities and getting updates on NDRF deployment, rescue work, and relief operations.”

Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Rawat, NDRF DG SN Pradhan, and ITBP DG SS Deswal to take stock of the situation. He said extra units of NDRF are being rushed to the spot from Delhi by airlifting them. “We are constantly monitoring the situation. All concerned officers are working on war footing to secure people. All possible help will be provided to Devbhoomi,” Shah said in a tweet. In 2013, following a cloudburst over Kedarnath, Uttarakhand had witnessed one of the worst floods in its history. Thousands of people, including locals and pilgrims, had lost their life.

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