Uttarakhand glacier burst: 10 dead; rise in water level halts rescue work at Tapovan tunnel

A part of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off Sunday morning in Uttarakhand, resulting in widespread damage. Around 100-150 people are missing due to large-scale flooding in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district.

UPDATED: February 8, 2021 10:54 IST

A portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday, triggering an avalanche and flooding in the Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga and Alaknanda rivers that washed away hydroelectric stations, swept away homes and left at least 10 people dead and 125 missing. Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, however, put the death toll at seven.

Two power projects NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project and the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project were extensively damaged, with scores of labourers trapped in tunnels as the waters came rushing in. Later in the day, 16 men were rescued safely by ITBP personnel from a tunnel near the Tapovan dam.

The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) said there was no danger of floods in downstream areas as the water level had been contained. CM Rawat announced Rs 4 lakh compensation for the families of those killed in the tragedy. Separately, Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the kin of the deceased. In some good news, the India Meteorological Department informed that there is no rainfall warning in the region for the next two days.

Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government asked authorities in all districts on the banks of river Ganga to be on high alert and continuously monitor the water level. “The districts on the Ganga river (banks) need to be on a high alert and the monitoring of water level needs to be done 24×7. If required, the people need to be evacuated,” the Relief Commissioner said.

02.00 am: “We are saddened by the news of death and missing of many individuals due to flash flood caused by an avalanche in Uttarakhand. We express deep condolences to the bereaved family members of the deceased & pray for the safety of those missing,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepal, said.

01.00 am: British PM Boris Johnson, in a tweet, responded to the Uttarakhand glacier burst incident and said “UK stands in solidarity with India and is ready to offer any support”.

12.37 am: 3 more persons rescued

12.07 am: Rescue efforts at present are focussed on extricating 30-35 workers trapped in a tunnel of the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project on the Dhauli Ganga river. “Around 30-35 people, including workers and employees of the 480 mw Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project on the Dhauli Ganga river, are feared trapped inside one of the tunnels following the avalanche,” PTI quoted project GM RP Ahirwar as saying. JCBs are being used to cut into the debris clogging the tunnel to rescue the trapped workers, he said.

11.20 pm: Efforts to rescue the trapped labourers in another tunnel had to be halted after a rise in the water level, Uttrakhand police said. “We were able to dig 150 mts into the 250-metre-long tunnel. Most missing persons were working at the two projects. We expect to get a clear picture on their identities by Monday morning,” police said. Earlier in the day, 16 men were rescued by ITBP personnel from a tunnel near the Tapovan dam. Meanwhile, all the specialised personnel who were airlifted from Delhi have reached Dehradun. They will be sent to the affected areas tomorrow.

11.00 pm: The United States and Pakistan government expressed condolenses to those affected by the glacier burst incident in Uttarakhand. “We grieve with the family and friends of the deceased and extend our hopes for a speedy and full recovery for the injured,” the US State Department tweeted.

“Saddened over loss of precious lives due to flash floods caused by glacier break-off in Uttarakhand. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims. We pray for the safety and early rescue and recovery of those missing,” the spokesperson of the Pakistan Foreign Ministry said.

10.20 pm: In Tapovan, the district administration has lost contact with 13 villages. However, there is no need to worry as the rescue team will drop ration packets from the helicopter there. The work of preparing ration packets has already started, the government informed.

10.00 pm: In a concerning development, the water level in the Alaknanda river system has begun to rise due to the formation of a lake by the glacier. Meanwhile, the Rishikesh-Joshimath road that was blocked at Hathipahad due to flash flood in Dhauliganga has been reopened for traffic by Border Roads Organisation.

9.30 pm: Here is the latest update on deployment of Armed forces for rescue and relief operations in Uttarakhand. The Army has deployed four columns and two medical teams.

9.24 pm: Two teams of glaciologists will head to Joshimath-Tapovan on Monday to study the causes of massive flood caused after a part of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, the director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology told PTI. Kalachand Sain said two teams of glaciologists – one with two members and other with three members – will leave Dehradun on Monday morning.

9.05 pm: IG NDRF Amrendra Kumar Sengar said the speed of rescue operations were likely to be affected due to low visibility and inclement weather. Meanwhile, as part of IAF disaster relief task force, a C130J Super Hercules aircraft has landed at the Jolly Grant airport in Dehrdun with rescue teams and other equipment on board.

8.45 pm: The water level of the Dhauli Ganga river at Joshimath flowed at a perilously high level, breaching all records, Central Water Commission officials said after a part of Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district leading to massive floods. “At 11 am, the water level recorded at Joshimath was 1,388 metres,” Saumitra Haldar, Chairman, Central Water Commission told PTI. During the 2013 Uttarakhand flash floods, the highest flood level (HFL) at Joshimath was 1,385.54 metres, he added. The CWC said water levels have started receding.

8.00 pm: According to NDRF sources, the rescue operation will continue overnight. “All agencies are working in a coordinated manner. MoS for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai is monitoring rescue work from the control room. He will continue to oversee operations through the night,” sources said.

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7.37 pm: A special Ganga puja was conducted for those who died in the Uttarakhand glacier burst at the Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi.

7.30 pm: The Turkish government released a statement following the Uttarakhand tragedy. “We are saddened to learn that many people are unaccounted for and feared to have lost their lives…We sincerely share the pain of Indian people and Government of India and offer our solidarity. We hope that the losses remain at a minimum level in this disaster, the missing people be recovered safely as soon as possible and declare our readiness to help in this regard,” the statement said.

7.15 pm: ITBP personnel carried rescued persons on stretchers to the nearest road. All 16 people who were trapped in a tunnel near Tapovan in Chamoli were rescued earlier today. Three if them were provided oxygen support as they were found unconscious inside.

7.05 pm: PM Narendra Modi has approved an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the avalanche caused by a glacier breach in Chamoli, Uttrakhand. “Rs 50,000 would be given to those seriously injured,” the PMO tweeted.

6.48 pm: The rescue operations are being coordinated by the Department of Military Affairs under the Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat. Army columns have been deployed from Joshimath and Auli while Navy’s Marcos are on way to the site of the power project to rescue those trapped. Two C-130J Super Hercules with three companies of NDRF and 15 tonnes of other loads and equipment have been sent from Hindan air base in Ghaziabad. An Air Commodore-rank officer has been deployed at Jolly Grant by the Air Force to coordinate the rescue operations.

6.38 pm: Addressing a press conference, Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat announced a financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh each to the kin of the deceased. “There is no danger of downstream flooding, rise in water level contained. No threat to villages, hydro projects,” the government said.

6.25 pm: Speaking on the rescue operations, IG NDRF told India Today that the disaster was not as big as the 2013 Kedarnath floods. As of now, five teams of NDRF have been deployed. “Rescue operation will continue for the next 24-48 hours. 40-50 people may have been swept away in the river,” he said. In 2013, following a cloudburst over Kedarnath, Uttarakhand had witnessed one of the worst floods in its history. Thousands of people had lost their lives.

6.00 pm: Here is a video of a labourer being rescued from the tunnel near Tapovan dam in Chamoli district.

5.45 pm: ITBP personnel have rescued all 16 people trapped in an under-construction the tunnel near Tapovan dam in Chamoli district. Chinook helicopters have been kept on standby. Here are some images from the rescue operation (Source: India Today):



5.30 pm: Expressing concern over the ‘glacier break’ in Uttarakhand, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi requested party workers and volunteers to help the people and the authorities in their relief and rescue efforts. “Concerned at the disturbing news of ‘glacier break’, flooding and destruction in Uttarakhand, and the resultant projection of danger in the downstream catchment of the River Ganga,” Gandhi said.

“I pray for the safety of all and request Congress workers and volunteers to help the people and the authorities in their relief and rescue efforts. The Indian National Congress stands with the people of Uttarakhand in this hour of tragedy and crisis,” she said.

4.55 pm: ITBP personnel have rescued all 16 people from the tunnel near Tapovan dam in Chamoli district, MHA sources told India Today. “16 people have been rescued from one tunnel. SDRF and ITBP are trying to open other tunnel,: sources said. Meanwhile, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) is holding a meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.

4.40 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said rescue operations were on in full swing in Uttarakhand. “I am constantly in touch with the CM and other relief workers from the state. Relief work is in full progress and every attempt is being made to help the affected people,” Modi said while addressing a gathering in West Bengal’s Haldia. “Rarely do we find a family in Uttarakhand that doesn’t send someone to the Army. Hence they have the ability to fight any disaster,” Modi further said.

4.30 pm: Two IAF teams have been airlifted from Hindon airbase in Ghaziabad to join relief efforts in Uttarakhand. Seven Indian Navy diving teams have also been kept on standby. Meanwhile, ITBP personnel are approaching the tunnel near Tapovan dam in Chamoli district where 16-17 people are believed to be trapped.

4.10 pm: SS Deswal, DG, ITBP, said 9-10 bodies have been receovered from the Dhauli Ganga river. “It is suspected that around 100 workers were at the site. 250 ITBP personnel are present at site, Indian Army team to reach soon,” ANI quoted Deswal as saying. He said around 20 workers were stranded in an under-construction tunnel near Tapovan dam. “ITBP team deployed at the site is undertaking rescue operation. We are in touch with the management team of NTPC to gather information on missing people,” he said.

3.57 pm: A Border Roads Organisation bridge near Malari ahead of Joshimath area has been washed away by the floods. Director-General BRO Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhary has instructed officials to reinstate it at the earliest possible. Necessary stores and personnel are being moved to the location.

3.46 pm: President Ramnath Kovind said he is deeply worried about the disaster in Uttarakhand.

3.45 pm: DGP Uttarakhand Ashok Kumar has informed that the flow of the river is under control and Devprayag, including other low-lying areas, are out of danger. “The incident happened in the morning when an avalanche occurred in the higher reaches which completely swept away the Rishiganga power project in Tapovan Area. As the Dhauli Ganga river moved further, it also damaged the NTPC’s under-construction hydropower project. However, now the river, along with the debris, has reached Srinagar dam where it is currently stable,” said DGP Kumar.

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3.41 pm: Saddened by loss of life in Uttarakhand incident, tweets UP CM Yogi Adityanath.

“I am deeply saddened by the reports of loss of life due to the natural disaster in Devbhoomi Uttarakhand. It is a request to Lord Rama that peace be upon the departed souls, give the power to the bereaved family to bear this sorrow and to provide immediate health benefits to the injured,” CM Yogi tweeted.

3.37 pm: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said, “We are gathering details on the flash flood in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli. Our officials are in contact with authorities there. As it concerns Ganga river, we need to remain alert”, reported news agency ANI.

3.32 pm: The official twitter handle of NTPC Ltd tweeted, “An avalanche near Tapovan in Uttarakhand has damaged a part of our under-construction hydropower project in the region. While rescue operation is on, situation is being monitored continuously with the help of district administration and police.”

3.28 pm: 120 workers were on the roster at the NTPC project at the Rheni village and most of them are believed to have been swept away by the flash floods. 15-20 people are stuck inside a nearby tunnel and ITBP personnel are deployed to rescue them.

ITBP personnel are digging the Tapovan Tunnel which has been blocked due to debris.

Two villages near the glacier burst site named Rheni and Lata and 3-4 shepherds are believed to have been swept away by flash floods.

3.26 pm: Former UP CM Mayawati tweeted, “In Chamoli district of Uttar Pradesh’s neighboring state of Uttarakhand, the news of the devastation of heavy life and property in Avalancha, that is, after the avalanche, is very sad. The Center should immediately ensure all assistance of the State Government in dealing with this disaster, this demand of BSP.”

3.24 pm: “16 people who were trapped in Tapovan Dam are being shifted to safer places by Police”, news agency ANI quoted Uttarakhand DGP Ashok Kumar as saying.

3.22 pm: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee tweeted, “Deeply shocked and very saddened at the loss of lives in the disaster that took place in Uttarakhand. My deepest condolences to the families of the deceased. Wishing a speedy and full recovery for those injured in the calamity.”

3.20 pm: NDRF teams are being airlifted from Ghaziabad’s Hindon Air Base to Uttarakhand.

3.18 pm: Chinook helicopters from Chandigarh and elsewhere on standby for search and rescue operations in Uttarakhand. Watch:

3.13 pm: Uttarakhand CM Rawat being briefed on flood situation by Army and ITBP personnel in Tapovan region of Chamoli district, reported news agency ANI.

3.09 pm: Uttarakhand States Disaster Response Force (SDRF) has deployed a number of teams at flood-affected areas. Here are the details:

  • Two teams at Tapovan
  • Two teams at Joshimath
  • One team at Srinagar
  • One team is rushing to Kirtinagar
  • One team is at alert for Rishikesh

3.06 pm: Three teams of NDRF are ready to be airlifted from Ghaziabad’s Hindon Air Base to Uttarakhand.


3.05 pm: Four Indian Army columns, two medical teams and one Engineering Task Force have been deployed at Ringi village in Joshimath for rescue operations. Indian Army helicopters are on aerial recce as well.

3 pm: ITBP sources have informed that while 150 persons are feared missing three dead bodies have been recovered from NTPC site in Tapovan area of Chamoli in Uttarakhand, reports news agency ANI.

2.47 pm: BJP President JP Nadda speaks to Uttarakhand CM inquiring about the flood situation in Chamoli. He also spoke to the state BJP chief and said that the BJP workers must help in rescue work following protocol.

JP Nadda also tweeted, “The administration is alert to the circumstances arising out of accidental glacier breakdown in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Chief Minister is himself is looking after the relief and rescue operations.
State BJP Chairman Banshidhar has been urged to deploy BJP workers in relief and rescue operations.”

2.45 pm: IAF C 130 and An32 aircraft are being used to airlift NDRF personnel from Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun to flood-affected areas.

2.37 pm: Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba to chair the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) meeting at 4.30 PM today on glacier burst in Joshimath to review the relief and rehabilitation work. The meeting is via Video Conferencing.

2.33 pm: Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani spoke on the phone with the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand regarding help to all the stranded travelers from Gujarat.

2.30 pm: “Casualties are feared to be between 100 to 150. Teams of ITBP, SDRF and NDRF have already reached the spot. Red alert has been issued”, news agency ANI quoted Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Om Prakash as saying.

2.24 pm: Congress colleagues will also join hands for relief work, tweets Congress MP Rahul Gandhi.

2.21 pm: Water outflow has been stopped at Tehri Dam located on the Bhagirathi River.

2.20 pm: IAF assets, both fixed wing as well as rotary are on standby to provide all possible assistance for Uttarakhand rescue operations. Six columns (around 600 personnel) of the Indian Army are moving towards the flood-affected areas, said Indian Army officials.

2.15 pm: Indian Airforce and Army have deployed their choppers and troops for supporting the state govt and NDRF teams in tackling the flood.

Indian Army sources said that the military station in Raiwala near Rishikesh is actively involved in the coordination of rescue and relief operations with local administration. Army headquarters are also monitoring the situation.

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2.05 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Am constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand. India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there. Have been continuously speaking to senior authorities and getting updates on NDRF deployment, rescue work and relief operations”.

2 pm: A meeting is scheduled at Cabinet Secretariat on relief operations in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli. DGs and Home Ministry officials to join the meeting

1.55 pm: Three choppers including two Mi-17 and one ALH Dhruv chopper of Air Force stationed in Dehradun for rescue operations in flood-affected areas.

1.50 pm: Situation normalising, say ITBP sources

ITBP sources have said that the situation is normalising with water flow being controlled.

“Water gushed out because the Rishiganga dam broke. ITBP teams are on spot,” said sources.

1.44 pm: Uttarakhand CM Rawat tells India Today, “Floodwaters have reached Alaknanda but we haven’t received reports of damage yet. Have received calls from PM Modi, HM Shah as well”.

Listen in:

1.41 pm: More than 150 labourers working at the Rishi Ganga power project may have been directly affected, news agency PTI reported State Disaster Response Force DIG Ridhim Aggarwal as saying.

“Representatives of the power project have told me that they are not being able to contact around 150 of their workmen at the project site,” she said.

1.40 pm: News agency ANI has reported that 100-150 casualties are feared in the flash floods in Chamoli district.

1.30 pm: Home Minister speaks to Uttarakhand CM

Home Minister Amit Shah has spoken to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat as well as ITBP DG SS Deswal to take stock of situation in Uttarakhand.

The Home Minister also spoke to NDRF DG SN Pradhan and Disaster Management officials.

1.20 pm: Anil Chanyal, ADM of Chamoli district tells India Today that the incident occurred at around 8-9 am after which Rishiganga dam project broke. Listen in:

1.15 pm: Alert for UP districts on Ganga riverbanks

UP Relief Commissioner has issued a notice to all District Magistrates of the state issuing a ‘Disaster Alert’. Districts which lie on the Ganga riverbanks have been put on alert.

“Reports of the breaking of a part of Nandadevi Glacier in Uttarakhand has been received. The districts on the Ganga river need to be on high alert and continuous monitoring of water level needs to be done 24×7. If required, people should to be evacuated and taken to a safe place. NDRF, SDRF and PAC Flood Company are being given instructions to be on the highest alert. Please coordinate locally also,” the notice said.

1.10 pm: Two teams of ITBP have reached the spot, three NDRF teams have been rushed from Dehradun and 3 additional teams will reach there with help of IAF chopper by evening. SDRF & local administration is already at spot,”MoS Home Nityanand Rai told ANI on massive flood in Dhauliganga.

1 pm: Joshimath-Malari bridge washed away in floods.

The Joshimath-Malari bridge has been washed away due to the flooding in Dhauli Ganga river. This bridge was used by Indian Army personnel to go to the border areas.

12.50 pm: Ministry of Home Affairs monitoring situation.

The ITBP is in touch with Ministry of Home Affairs, sources said. A large team has departed from the Regional Response Center of ITBP, Gauchar.

A mountaineering team of the ITBP also immediately dispatched the personnel specializing in building bridges. 200 personnel have already been sent by ITBP from Joshimath.

12.45 pm: Uttarakhand CM launches helpline for those stuck in affected areas.

“If you are stuck in the affected area, if you need any kind of help, please contact Disaster Operations Center number 1070 or 9557444486. Please do not spread rumors from old videos about the incident,” tweeted the CM

12.30 pm: CM Trivendra Singh Rawat tweeted, “There is a possibility of damage to the Rishiganga project in Rini village of Chamoli due to heavy rains and sudden water. There is also a possibility of flooding in the lower areas of Alaknanda due to sudden arrival in the river. People have been alerted in coastal areas. People settled along the river are being removed from the area.”

“As a precaution, the flow of Bhagirathi river has been stopped. To prevent the flow of water of Alaknanda, Srinagar Dam and Rishikesh Dam have been evacuated. SDRF is on alert. I request you not to spread rumors. Pay attention to official authentic information only. I am leaving for the scene mysel,” he added.

Chamoli Police has advised people living on the banks of river Alaknanda to move to safe place at the earliest. Rescue operations are also on in Tapovan area.

Sources say several casualties are feared near Reni village which is 26 kilometers from Joshimath area. Hundreds of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) men rushed for rescue.

CM Trivendra Singh Rawat has also taken stock of the situation. He tweeted, “A disaster has been reported from Chamoli district. The district administration, police department and disaster management have been ordered to deal with this disaster. Do not pay attention to any kind of rumors. The government is taking all necessary steps.”

News agency ANI reported that the Chamoli district magistrate has instructed officials to evacuate people living in villages on the bank of Dhauliganga river. The district magistrate and the superintendent of police have left for the spot.

Meanwhile, Srinagar, Hardwar and Rishikesh areas of Uttarakhand have been put on alert as well. The Srinagar dam has been evacuated.

Visuals shared by Twitter users showed massive flooding in the rivers. Extensive damage to nearby villages is expected.

Though details are awaited, several districts, including Pauri, Tehri, Rudraprayag, Haridwar and Dehradun, are likely to be affected and have been put on high alert.


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