Chamoli disaster: Experts yet to ascertain what caused tragedy

A team of five scientists from WIHG are in Tapovan, Raini and other locations to collect samples of muck, water and debris.

Published: 10th February 2021 08:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th February 2021 08:23 AM   |  A+A-

Rescue workers at the entrance of the tunnel in which 37 persons are trapped;

Express News Service

RAINI (UTTARAKHAND): Scientists and experts who inspected the disaster site in Chamoli have said that it is too early to determine the exact cause of the flash floods. So far,  32 bodies have been recovered and 174 are still missing. Kalachand Sai, director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology which has sent a team of experts to find out what caused the disaster, said: “At this stage, it is difficult to pin point the exact cause of the flash floods.

We are on the ground taking samples and examining everything. Once we analyse everything, then only we can tell what happened.” This team of five scientists from WIHG are in Tapovan, Raini and other locations to collect samples of muck, water and debris. They said that two causes — glacier break and avalanche — cannot be ruled out. “There can be multiple causes such as an avalanche or glacier break or may be both. We do not see any reason to determine it as a standard Glacial Lake Outburst Flood,” said Sai, whose team had reached the locatin on Monday.

 Relative of a missing person near the disaster site

Unwilling to conclude what caused this, Sai said: “This region has a very steep gradient. Our observations suggest that the rock mass may have weakened due to freezing and thawing. This sometimes leads to the development of a weak zone and fractures. As the rock mass weakened, the glacier and snow might have come down crashing, and resulting in flash floods,” he said. The steep slopes of the mountains in the region further increased the intensity of the crash.

A preliminary finding by the Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), which is part of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), is of the opinion that the floods occurred due to landslide and ruled out glacial burst or GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood). A scientist from the institute, who did wish to be named, said: “Our preliminary findings indicate that a landslide was triggered at around 5600 meters of altitude. It was a combination of rocks, snow from recent snowfall on February 4, 5 and ice of the glacier. The area of 0.3 square kilometers covered by the landslide which made the first fall of 1.8 kilometers on the steep slope due to which the flash floods occurred.”

The website of the IIRS says: “It has been observed from the satellite data of Feb 7, 2021 in catchment of Rishi Ganga river at the terminus of the glacier at an altitude of 5600 meter a landslide triggered a snow avalanche covering approximately 14 sq km area and causing a flash flood in the downstream Rishiganga river.

A rescuer tries to reach the other end of the tunnel | Shekhar yadav

It is estimated that flash flood had generated 2-3 million cubic meter of water in a short span of time.” Meanwhile, scientists from Defence Research and Development Orhanisation and experts from various other institutions across the country have reached the Tapovan area to investigate the cause of the disaster. Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat visited Lata in Chamoli on Tuesday to meet the residents of the avalanche-hit villages. He had visited Tapovan on Monday evening to review rescue efforts.

MP village quartet among the missing
Bhopal: At least four from Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh are among those missing after Sunday’s tragedy in Uttarakhand. Bhanu Pratap Sikarwar, Gajendra Pavaiya, Rakesh Lodhi and Sonu Lodhi are all natives of Dhamkan village. Police said they were hired by a metal company. All are aged between 25 and 30.

Yogi sends team of three ministers
Lucknow: To coordinate with authorities in Uttarakhand in carrying out relief and rescue operations and to locate the missing ones from UP, CM Yogi Adityanath has sent a team of three ministers to the calamity site. Another team headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) will coordinate with the Uttarakhand administration.

Jharkhand to stand by those affected 
Ranchi: The Jharkhand government will provide all help to the people of the state trapped in the disaster,  Chief Minister Hemant Soren said. He added that the government’s Labour Department has opened a control room. “People trying to know about those trapped in the disaster, contact helpline numbers,” he said.


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