India World

India Glacier Burst: 34 dead, 170 missing; families accuse authorities of slow rescue work

At least 170 people still remain missing five days after the bursting of a Himalayan glacier that destroyed two hydropower projects and five bridges in Uttarakhand.

Flash floods spilled rocks and slush, blocked roads and tunnels, cut-off several villages. The death toll in the tragedy rose to 34.

India deployed its army to assist hundreds of recue personnel in search for the missing and clear debris to re-connect isolated villages.

The missing people include those working at NTPC’s 480-MW Tapovan-Vishnugad project and the 13.2-MW Rishiganga Hydel Project and villagers whose homes nearby were washed away.

Families of the missing have alleged that authorities haven’t been doing enough as time was running out for loved ones trapped.

Kin of around 40 missing workers engaged in a heated argument with the authorities at the Rishiganga hydel project site. On Thursday, an alert was sounded after several rivers in the area surged and rescue work temporarily halted.

“It is four days since the tragedy occurred but all the focus is on restoring connectivity. Rescuing the missing people does not seem to be the priority,” alleged a man from Punjab, whose brother Jugal worked at the Rishiganga hydel project.

“Jugal’s phone rings when his number is dialed,” he said.

Uttarakhand is prone to flash floods and landslides and the disaster prompted calls by environment groups for a review of power projects in the ecologically sensitive mountains. In June 2013, record monsoon rains there caused devastating floods that claimed close to 6,000 lives.