Not less than seven people have died and 170 more are missing in northern India after part of a Himalayan glacier broke off, sending a flood of water and debris into two hydroelectric dams.
A portion of Nanda Devi glacier broke off in the Tapovan area of Uttarakhand state on Sunday, with the subsequent flooding damaging the Rishiganga and Dhauliganga hydropower projects, officials said.
About 170 workers at the two power plants were missing, while at least 30 workers were trapped near a tunnel at the Dhauliganga project, local police said.
Nine bodies have already been recovered in intensified rescue operations, police added.
Eyewitness Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives on the upper reaches of the river, told Reuters news agency: “It came very fast, there was no time to alert anyone. I felt that even we would be swept away.”
Officials said the breaking glacier released water trapped behind it as well as sending mud and other debris surging down the mountain and into other bodies of water.
Some houses were also damaged in the flooding and an evacuation of homes on the banks of the Alaknanda river was issued immediately.
Several teams of rescuers were rushed to the affected area, officials said.
“India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.
In 2013, more than 1,000 people were killed in Uttarakhand after heavy rain triggered landslides and floods, washing away thousands of houses and roads.