A bulldozer clears mud outside Tapovan tunnel, where dozens are feared to be trapped, during rescue operations in Chamoli district on Feb. 10 following a flash flood caused when a glacier burst on Feb. 7. (Photo: AFP)
Pope Francis and Indian bishops have expressed grief over a massive glacier burst that killed at least 32 people in northern India.
The tragedy in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Feb. 7 also left more than 170 missing as the rescue operation carried on until late on Feb. 10, media reports said.
“I express my closeness to the victims of the calamity that happened in India where part of a glacier separated itself, provoking violent flooding that devastated two power plants,” Pope Francis said in a tweet on Feb. 10.
“I pray for the workers who died, for their families and for all those who were wounded.”
Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said on Feb. 9 that the CBCI expresses its grief and offers its condolences to the family members of all those who have died or are missing as a result of the Uttarakhand glacier calamity.
“We are still getting reports of the damage to bridges and hydropower projects and the loss of life. We deeply appreciate the relief efforts by the government and government agencies,” he said.
“Caritas India, the social wing of the CBCI, will render all assistance we can to bring succour and hope to the affected people.”
According to media reports, the glacier piece fell into a river and caused a flash flood that swept away bridges and roads.
The surging water and rocks in the Dhauli Ganga River also damaged the Tapovan-Vishnugad and Rishiganga hydropower projects.
Media reports said the administration had deployed more than 600 personnel of the Indian Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force to carry out search and rescue operations.
Satellite data revealed that a landslide triggered an avalanche at an altitude of 5,600 meters in the catchment area of the river.
Uttarakhand, which is in the lap of the Himalayas, is prone to disasters. In June 2013, the tiny state experienced a cloud burst that resulted in devastating floods and landslides that killed 5,700. It was described as India's worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami.