A rescued power plant worker celebrated with his saviours after he was pulled alive from a collapsed Himalayan tunnel after a disastrous glacier co
A rescued power plant worker celebrated with his saviours after he was pulled alive from a collapsed Himalayan tunnel after a disastrous glacier collapse in India.
The man threw up his hands in relief while rescuers cheered with joy after yanking him from the tunnel, which was cut off on Sunday after a chunk of glacier broke off and sent a wall of water and debris barrelling down a narrow valley.
The disaster has killed at least 18 people and left at least 200 others missing, including workers at hydroelectric power plants which were pummelled by the flood.
Himalayan border police rescued 12 people from one tunnel in a four-hour rescue effort on Sunday, but 37 others were thought to be trapped in a second tunnel which has filled with debris.
Rescued: Delighted Himalayan border police pull a man alive out of a tunnel where he was trapped after a glacier collapse caused a devastating flood in northern India
Calamity: A massive burst of water tearing through the Dhauliganga river valley after a chunk of glacier broke off in the Himalayas
The day after: This picture taken on Monday shows remains of a dam which was overrun by flash floods on Sunday after part of a glacier broke off in the Himalayas
Wall of debris: Indian army units and the national disaster relief force work to clear a tunnel
Heavy machinery: The Indo-Tibetan Border Police deploy paramilitary hardware to clear dirt and debris from the mouth of a tunnel
Several hundred rescue workers including army and navy diving teams resumed their search operation at first light on Monday.
With the main road washed away, paramilitary rescuers had to scale down a hillside on ropes to reach the entrance of one of the tunnels.
Emergency workers were using heavy machinery to remove large piles of rocks, with more than 300ft of debris still to be cleared.
‘The tunnel is filled with debris, which has come from the river. We are using machines to clear the way,’ said H Gurung, an Indo-Tibetan Border Police official.
One survivor, 28-year-old Rajesh Kumar, said he and his colleagues were working 300 yards inside the tunnel when they heard shouting telling them to get out.
‘We started running out but the water gushed in. It was like scenes from a Hollywood movie. We thought we wouldn’t make it,’ he said.
Another rescued worker, Rakesh Bhatt, said he was working in the tunnel when water rushed in.
‘We thought it might be rain and that the water will recede. But when we saw mud and debris enter with great speed, we realised something big had happened,’ he said.
Bhatt said one of the workers was able to contact officials via his mobile phone. ‘We waited for almost six hours – praying to God and joking with each other to keep our spirits high. I was the first to be rescued and it was a great relief,’ he said.
Brought to the surface: Rescuers from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police get the man out alive, making him one of 12 to be pulled safely from this tunnel
Celebration: The man threw up his hands in relief after his ordeal in the tunnel ended on Sunday, but others are still trapped in another nearby tunnel
Mission accomplished: The rescuers deposit the man on the ground after pulling him alive from the tunnel following the glacier collapse
Himalayan disaster: A map showing where part of a glacier broke off and caused a disastrous flood in the north of India
Rescue operation: Members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police carry out search and rescue work today after a river surge that swept away bridges and roads
Search operations are still ongoing to rescue people trapped in one of the tunnels near a destroyed hydroelectric power station
The Uttarakhand state government said on Monday that 18 bodies have been recovered, and chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said at least 200 people were still unaccounted for.
Most of those missing were working at two power plants, with some trapped in the tunnels cut off by the floods and by mud and rocks.
‘If this incident happened in the evening, after work hours, the situation wouldn’t have been this bad as labourers and workers in and around the work sites would have been at home,’ Rawat told reporters.
More than 2,000 members of the military, paramilitary groups and police have been taking part in search-and-rescue operations in the northern state.
Authorities fear many more to be dead and were searching for bodies downstream using boats.
They also walked along river banks and used binoculars to scan for bodies that might have been washed downstream.
The flood was caused when a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier snapped off on Sunday morning, releasing water trapped behind it.
The floodwater rushed down the mountain and into other bodies of water, forcing the evacuation of villages along the banks of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers.
The muddy, concrete grey floodwaters tumbled through a valley and surged into a dam, breaking it into pieces with little resistance before roaring on downstream.
Landscape: Rescuers leave on a boat to search for bodies in the downstream portion of the Alaknanda River in the Indian satate of Uttarakhand
Climb: Rescue personnel clamber up a hillside in Chamoli after the disastrous glacier collapse
One hydroelectric plant on the Alaknanda was destroyed, and a plant under construction on the Dhauliganga was damaged, police said.
The trapped workers were at the Dhauliganga plant, where on Sunday 12 workers were rescued from one of the tunnels, including the man in the footage.
Glaciers in the region have been shrinking rapidly in recent years because of global warming, but experts say that the construction of hydroelectric plants could also be a factor.
Floods in 2013 killed 6,000 people and led to calls for a review of projects in Uttarakhand, a state of 10million people bordering Tibet and Nepal.
Vimlendhu Jha, founder of Swechha, an environmental NGO, said the disaster was a ‘grim reminder’ of the effects of climate change and the ‘haphazard development of roads, railways and power plants in ecologically sensitive areas’.
A major study in 2019 said that two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers, the world’s ‘Third Pole’, could melt by 2100 if global emissions are not sharply reduced.
Glaciers in the region are a critical source of water for hundreds of millions of people, feeding many of the world’s most important river systems.