At least 150 people are feared dead after a Himalayan glacier burst, sending a massive flood of water and debris crashing into two dams, officials in the country said Sunday.
Rescue workers recovered two bodies as they fought to save the lives of workers at the dam sites in the Chamoli district, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said on Twitter.
“My prayers are with every missing worker,” he wrote, adding that their main focus is on finding people who might be stuck in underground tunnels. He did not elaborate on where the tunnels might be.
A video shared by Uttarakhand Police and Indo-Tibetan Border Police showed a man being pulled out alive from one of the tunnels. It was not immediately clear if he was one of the workers or a local resident.
Rawat said 600 personnel from the Indian army, border police and engineering task force were on standby to deal with the aftermath.
Between 100 to 150 are feared dead, Om Prakash, Uttarakhand’s chief secretary, was quoted as saying by Times of India newspaper.
More than 50 people were working at one of the dams, the Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project, Uttarakhand’s Police Chief Ashok Kumar told a news conference, adding that some people had been rescued.
Authorities had evacuated other dams to contain the water rushing in from the flooded Alakananda river, he said. Both Uttarakhand Police and Rawat tweeted that people with homes along river are being evacuated.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the nation was praying for everyone’s safety in the region, while President Ram Nath Kovind also used the social media platform to say he was “deeply worried” about the glacier burst.
Video obtained by Reuters showed water gushing towards one of the dams, washing away parts of it. NBC News could not independently verify it. Social media videos, which NBC is also working to verify, showed floodwater and debris streaming through the area and the aftermath of the flooding.
Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives on the upper reaches of Raini village, told Reuters he saw a wall of dust, rock and water as an avalanche roared down a river valley.
“It came very fast, there was no time to alert anyone,” he said. “We have no idea how many people are missing.”
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Uttarakhand in the Himalayas is prone to flash floods and landslides. In June 2013, record rainfall caused devastating floods that claimed close to 6,000 lives.
That disaster was dubbed the “Himalayan tsunami” by the media due to the torrents of water unleashed in the mountainous area, which sent mud and rocks crashing down, burying homes, sweeping away buildings, roads and bridges.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Janhvi Bhojwani and Matteo Moschella contributed.