136 people missing since a glacier burst in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district earlier this month unleashed an avalanche and flash floods will be declared dead, officials have said. More than 60 bodies have been recovered so far after the region was hit by one of the worst tragedies in the recent years.
About two weeks ago, the glacier breach in the upper Himalayas triggered an avalanche and massive flooding along the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers, forcing evacuation of thousands from surrounding areas. A hydroelectric station and five bridges were washed away, besides severe damage to another power project.
The 13.2 mw Rishi Ganga hydel project was totally demolished in the avalanche while the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project suffered extensive damage.
Ever since the disaster hit the region on February 7, a multi-agency search-and-rescue operation, involving teams from the state and national disaster response forces, the Army, Navy and Air Force, the ITBP, local police and paramilitary troops, had been working tirelessly.
Now, families have been called to test the DNA samples of 136 people who are still missing.
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.
Facing criticism from experts who say developmental projects in the region may have exacerbated the disaster, the central government earlier this month ruled out any connection between an ongoing road-widening project near the Char Dam and the glacier burst.
In 2013, massive flash floods and landslides hit Uttarakhand's Kedarnath after a multi-day cloudburst killing 5,700 people in one of the country's worst natural disasters since the 2004 tsunami. The floods also damaged parts of the famous Kedarnath temple, located 3,581 metres above sea level.
Melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled since the start of the 21st century due to rising temperatures, a study published in 2019 said. Scientists analysed 40 years of satellite observations across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, which indicates climate change is eating Himalayan glaciers. This potentially threatens water supply for hundreds of millions of people in these countries, including India.