18 dead, nearly 100 missing in Himalayan lake floods in India

New Delhi/Kolkata, Oct. 5 (Reuters) – At least 18 people were killed and nearly 100 missing on Thursday after heavy rains in northeastern India breached the banks of a Himalayan glacial lake in northeastern India. 50 years.

Officials said 22,000 people were killed in massive floods after Lonak Lake in Sikkim state overflowed on Wednesday. It is the latest deadly weather event blamed on climate change in the highlands of South Asia.

Sikkim received 101 mm (4 in) of rain in the first five days of October, more than twice the normal amount, unleashing floods worse than the October 1968 floods that killed 1,000 people.

The department has predicted heavy rains in Sikkim and neighboring states for the next three days.

Local officials said the recent floods were exacerbated by water released from state-run NHPC’s Teesta V dam. Four gates of the dam were swept away and it was not clear why they were not opened in time, a government source told Reuters.

As of Thursday evening, 98 people were missing, including 17 army personnel, state Chief Secretary V.P. Pathak told Reuters by phone.

As many as 14 bridges were swept away during the rescue operations already affected by the heavy rains. Pathak said 18 relief camps were opened on Thursday where food and medical aid was being provided.

Authorities in neighboring Bangladesh were on high alert. An official of the State Water Resources Development Board has warned that five districts in the northern part of the country will be flooded as the water level of the Teesta river, which enters Bangladesh under the state of Sikkim, will rise.

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Tourists suffered

Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority Director Prabhakar Roy said the bad weather was hampering rescue operations and the situation was a bit dire.

“Due to bad weather, we are unable to operate flights to the northern part of the state,” Roy told Reuters.

“Communication is a major problem as the roads have been damaged at various places. Telephone communication is also a problem in the upper reaches,” he said. There has been a delay in the recovery of the silt accumulated in the houses on the banks of the river.

About 2,500 tourists were stranded in and around Chungthang town in Mangan district, 100 km (60 miles) north of the state capital Gangtok, but they were in safe locations and would be airlifted out when the weather improved, Roy said.

An advisory from the state tourism department asked visitors planning trips to the scenic state to postpone travel and said those stranded in Mangan district would be evacuated from Friday subject to weather conditions.

“All tourists stranded in Lachung and Lachen areas are safe and no untoward incident has been reported so far,” the advisory said about the two rivers where the Teesta originates in Chungthang.

Video footage from news agency ANI, in which Reuters has a minority stake, showed floodwaters rushing through built-up areas where several houses had collapsed. Army bases and other facilities were damaged and vehicles submerged.

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Reuters photos show diggers and rescue workers shoveling silt and mud to dig out buried military vehicles on the riverbank.

Satellite images show that two-thirds of the lake has dried up.

Shortage of fuel, availability of food

Sikkim, a small Buddhist state of about 650,000 people nestled in the mountains between Nepal, Bhutan and China, was cut off by the collapse of its main highway from Siliguri in neighboring West Bengal.

Petrol and diesel have become scarce in the state capital Gangtok, but food is readily available, state legislator GD Dhungal told Reuters.

Wednesday’s cloudburst at Lonak Lake, about 150 km (90 miles) north of Gangtok near the border with China, dumped a large amount of rain in a short period of time, triggering flash floods in the Teesta Valley.

Water from melting glaciers often pools in shallow lakes blocked by rocks and debris. The danger comes when a lake fills up, breaking its natural barrier and sending water rushing down mountain valleys.

A 2020 report by India’s National Disaster Management Agency said glacial lakes are growing and melting glaciers in the Himalayas due to climate change pose a major risk to downstream infrastructure and livelihoods.

A study published in February in the journal Nature Communications estimated for the first time how many people worldwide are at risk from the floods, with about 15 million people at risk, more than half of the world’s population living in India, Pakistan, China and China. Peru.

The Indian Himalayas have seen heavy rains in recent years that have triggered deadly landslides and flash floods that have killed more than 500 people and damaged critical infrastructure this year alone, with scientists increasingly blaming global warming as a major factor.

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Additional reporting by Subrata Nag Chowdhury in Kolkata, Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar, Tanvi Mehta and Krishnan Kaushik, Sarita Sakanti Singh, Ruma Paul and Rajendra Jadhav in New Delhi; Written by YP Rajesh; Editing by Robert Birzel, Michael Perry, Kim Coghill and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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