Even as over 26 bodies have been recovered after the flood near Joshimath in Uttarakhand so far, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday said a landslide triggered the snow avalanche leading to the tragic incident in the state.
The Minister said the landslide triggered snow avalanche covering approximately 14 square km area and caused a flash flood in the Rishiganga river downstream in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district.
He further said that the incident was observed from the satellite data (Planet Lab) of February 7, 2021 (Sunday) in catchment of Rishi Ganga river at the terminus of the glacier at an altitude of 5,600 metres.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on the tragedy that occurred at 10 a.m. on Sunday, the Minister said the avalanche hit the upper catchment of Rishiganga river, a tributary of Alaknanda river in Chamoli, leading to a sudden rise in the water levels of Rishiganga river.
Due to flash floods on account of rising of water levels in the Rishiganga, the Minister said, a functional Rishiganga small hydro project of 13.2 megawatt was washed away.
“The flash floods also affected the under construction 520-megawatt NTPC Hydro Power Project downstream at Tapovan on the river Dhauli Ganga,” Shah further said.
Citing information shared by Uttarakhand government, the Minister said there was no danger of downstream flooding and the rise in water levels has been contained.
Shah said that the Centre and the state government have been keeping a strict vigil on the situation which is being monitored round the clock by the Central government at the highest level.
“The Prime Minister himself is monitoring the situation closely and both Control Rooms of Ministry of Home Affairs are monitoring the situation round the clock, ensuring possible help to the state.”
He said that Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has set up its Control Room and 450 ITBP personnel with all necessary equipment are engaged in rescue and relief operations.
Five National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have also reached the spot and are engaged in rescue and relief operations, said the Minister, adding eight teams of the Indian Army, including one Engineer Task Force (ETF), are carrying out rescue operations at the site.
“One medical column with two ambulances is also deployed and one diving team of Indian Navy has also reached the site. Five helicopters of Indian Air Force have also been engaged in rescue operations. A control room has been established at Joshimath.”
In spite of adverse conditions at the incident site, the Minister said the search and rescue operation is continuously being carried out and the Army has cleared debris at the opening of the tunnel to rescue the persons trapped in it.
“All the staff of the Central Water Commission deployed in Alaknanda and Ganga Basin up to Haridwar are on alert. One team of Sashstra Seema Bal (SSB) is also deployed at incident site. A team of Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) has also reached at the site for surveillance and reconnaissance.”As per information received from Uttarakhand government till last evening, the Minister said a total of 197 persons are reported missing. The missing persons includes 139 persons of under construction project of NTPC, 46 persons of the functional Rishiganga Project and 12 villagers.
He further clarified that the state government has gathered this information from different sources, and this may change.
The Minister said that rescue operation to evacuate these persons is going on war footing and all-out efforts are simultaneously being made for searching missing persons.