Uttarakhand floods bring back memories of 2013 Kedarnath tragedy, but clear weather helping rescue operations

For many people in Uttarakhand, the floods in Chamoli on Sunday brought back horrific memories of the deluge of 2013 in Kedarnath

FP Staff February 08, 2021 13:45:34 IST
Uttarakhand floods bring back memories of 2013 Kedarnath tragedy, but clear weather helping rescue operations

ITBP personnel engaged in rescue operations in Uttarakhand. AP

For many people in Uttarakhand, the floods in Chamoli on Sunday brought back horrific memories of the deluge of 2013, which is estimated to have left over 5,000 people dead.

The sight of huge torrents of water and sludge and loud noises due to it caused panic in nearby villages, PTI reported.

"Before we could make out what was happening, the raging muddy waters of Rishi Ganga had devastated the landscape," 50-year-old Dharam Singh, a resident of the Raini village, was quoted as saying.

Rakesh Dhimri, another resident of the same village, was among those who rushed out of their houses in fear. He was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times, "The first thing that came to my mind after seeing the swollen river was the Kedarnath tragedy which swallowed thousands of lives. My family and I were just praying to God to protect us from similar possible tragedy. Fortunately, we were saved but the workers on the dam site were not so lucky."

Clear weather helping rescue efforts

While the tragedy on Sunday has claimed ten lives till now, the glacier burst does not seem to have wrecked the kind of devastation that was seen in 2013. Nevertheless, efforts are on to trace 143 people who are presently missing.

In that year, the banks of the Chorabari lake in Kedarnath collapsed due to a cloudburst that had resulted in a major flash flood. The flooding caused widespread destruction in Uttarakhand and led to heavy losses to infrastructure, agricultural lands, human and animal lives.

However, unlike the Kedarnath tragedy which struck after a downpour, the flash flood on Sunday occurred on a bright and sunny morning which helped in relief and rescue operations by police, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel in the affected areas.

In 2013, bad weather had delayed the launch of relief and rescue operations after the Kedarnath deluge. Further, the magnitude of the tragedy at that time could also not be immediately realised. On the other hand, on Sunday, the clear weather allowed helicopters to reach the affected areas quickly.

Nevertheless, the exact cause of the flooding on Sunday is not known, and several possible theories are being examined.

A report in Hindustan Times has quoted DP Dobhal, a former glaciologist at Dehradun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, as saying, "“Locals have told me that water and debris were flowing at great speed for about 15 to 20 minutes this morning and then the flow reduced gradually. This indicates a lake outburst."

Dobhal also expressed the possibility that an avalanche may have taken place on Saturday or early on Sunday morning. This may have caused water to fill up, and then breach the lake. "It may be very similar to what happened in 2013 with the Chorabari lake during the Kedarnath disaster. Only difference is that this time it’s in winter and that was during monsoons," he was quoted as saying.

Rescue efforts currently focussed on Tapovan tunnel: DGP

A total of 143 people are still missing due to the floods that occurred on Sunday, Uttarakhand DGP Ashok Kumar said.

Efforts are focussed at the moment on rescuing 30-35 people trapped in a 250-metre long tunnel at Tapovan, he said.

The sudden flood in the Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga and Alaknanda rivers — all intricately linked tributaries of the Ganga -- triggered widespread panic and large-scale devastation in the high mountain areas.

Homes along the way were also swept away as the waters rushed down the mountainsides in a raging torrent. There were fears of damage in human settlements downstream, including in heavily populated areas. Many villages were evacuated and people taken to safer areas.

With inputs from PTI

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