Officials have said that nine more bodies have been discovered at the site of a flash flood in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday, raising the death toll to 50.
According to reports from officials, over 150 people are still missing after the flash flood which scientists said was triggered by what could have been a large avalanche of glacier ice which sent water, rocks and debris down the Dhauliganga river valley.
Rescuers were using heavy digging machinery in race to free dozens of dam construction workers trapped in an underground tunnel connected to a hydroelectric project being built by the government-owned National Thermal Power Corporation.
Chamoli’s district magistrate, Swati Bhadoriya, said, “We have not lost all hope yet. We hope to find more survivors from the flood.
“In the morning two bodies were first recovered inside the tunnel after clearing the muck at a distance of about 125-130 metres. Following that, three more bodies were recovered till Sunday afternoon. The administration has kept seven ambulances and a chopper on standby in case any of the workers is found alive from the tunnel.”
Authorities said 154 people were still missing.
Experts have cautioned that there could still be huge amounts of rock, debris, ice and water that could be dislodged, making rescue efforts risky.
Uttarakhand is prone to flash flood and landslides,the disaster has prompted calls by environmental groups for a review of power projects in the ecologically sensitive mountains.
A team of scientists are investigating if a piece of a Himalayan glacier did fall into water and trigger the flood.
There are about 10,000 glaciers in the Indian Himalayas, Uttarakhand itself has up to 1,495 glaciers and many are receding due to the warming climate.
An eight-member team of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), which had gone on foot to gather information about the glacier lake about 8km above Raini village, said that the 350-metre lake poses no threat of any flash flood as water is continuously draining out in the form of a stream.