Rescue operation underway in India after 37 trapped in glacier flood

The focus has been on saving 37 workers stuck inside a tunnel at one of the affected hydropower plants. Credit: AP

Rescuers in northern India have been attempting to save 37 power plant workers stuck in a tunnel following a glacier collapse.

The workers were trapped after part of a Himalayan glacier broke off and sent a wall of water and debris racing down the mountain on Sunday.

Over 2,000 members of the military, paramilitary groups and police have been involved in search-and-rescue operations in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

The incident has left at least 26 people dead, with more than 165 others missing, and damaged dams and homes downstream.

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The focus has been on saving 37 workers stuck inside a tunnel at one of the affected hydropower plants, officials have said. Excavators had been brought in to help with the efforts.

“The tunnel is filled with debris, which has come from the river. We are using machines to clear the way,” said H. Gurung, a senior official of the paramilitary Indo Tibetan Border Police.Officials fear many more to be dead and have been searching for bodies downstream.The flood was caused when a part of the Nanda Devi glacier snapped off on Sunday morning and released water trapped behind it.

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Disaster experts said this could be linked to global warming. The floodwater rushed down the mountain and into other bodies of water, forcing the evacuation of many villages along the banks of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers.

A hydroelectric plant on the Alaknanda was destroyed, and a plant under construction on the Dhauliganga was damaged, according to Indo Tibetan Border Police spokesman Vivek Pandey. Flowing out of the Himalayan mountains, the two rivers meet before merging with the Ganges River.

Workers were trapped at the Dhauliganga plant, where on Sunday 12 workers were rescued from a separate tunnel.

A senior government official said the total number of people who were working in the Dhauliganga project is unknown.

Indo Tibetan Border Police personnel at one of the hydropower projects Credit: AP

Mr Pandey said Monday that 153 workers at the two plants were missing, while at least 11 bodies were recovered.

Those rescued Sunday were taken to a hospital, where they were recovering.

One of the rescued workers, Rakesh Bhat said they were working in the tunnel when water rushed in.

“We thought it might be rain and that the water will recede. But when we saw mud and debris enter with great speed, we realised something big had happened,” he said.