Indian Glacier in Himalayan Valley Crumbles, Causing Flash Flooding

Rescuers scrambled to find people after a broken glacier caused a river surge that swept away bridges and roads in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand on Feb. 7.


Indo-Tibetan Border Police/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

At least 14 people were killed and more than 150 people missing after a flash flood swept through a Himalayan mountain valley in northern India, slamming into hydropower projects and sweeping away workers at the sites.

The flood was caused when a glacier near Rishi Ganga River, one of the tributaries of the Ganges, broke off and crumbled into the river Sunday morning. Local television footage showed a huge surge of brown water snaking down the valley, flooding the shores, triggering avalanches and knocking over buildings.

The water ran into a small hydro project, washing away a dam and damaging a larger hydroelectric project being constructed downriver. About 154 people working at the two projects at the time were still missing Sunday night, according to

Mukesh Kumar,

a data entry operator at the Chamoli district disaster management authority in the state of Uttarakhand, where the incident took place.

“The 14 bodies of the workers were retrieved from the river,” Mr. Kumar said. “We will know the identity of the dead and missing workers only tomorrow.”

Police helped in the rescue effort after a small hydroelectric dam was flooded in Chormi village in Uttarakhand state on Feb. 7.



Army, police and teams from India’s National Disaster Response Force helped rescue work late into the night, which included helping dig out workers trapped in a tunnel at one of the sites. Navy divers were being flown in Sunday, while the Indian Air Force was on standby to help with any rescues, the government said.

“All our attention is on the rescue right now,”

Trivendra Singh Rawat,

the states’ chief minister, said in a news briefing.

Hundreds of people were killed in the same state after a similar flood in 2013 when the wall of a glacial lake broke after heavy rains—sweeping through a valley crowded with thousands of pilgrims visiting one of Hinduism’s holiest temples.

After that disaster more than 4,000 people were presumed missing, though the official death toll was kept to a few hundred, government officials said at the time.

Prime Minister

Narendra Modi

said he was speaking to senior officials and getting updates on rescue work and relief operations. He announced a government fund to support the families of those killed and injured by the disaster.

“India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there,” he said on Twitter.

—Rajesh Roy contributed to this article.

Write to Krishna Pokharel at [email protected]

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