New Delhi, Oct 6 (EFE).- Rescue personnel were on Friday working round-the-clock in India’s northeastern state of Sikkim to find survivors among the over 100 people missing after devastating flash floods, triggered by a glacial lake bursting through its banks and heavy rains in recent days.
The surging waters and mud in the Teesta river have killed at least 19 people, including nine soldiers, since Tuesday, according to the latest data released by state authorities.
At least 103 people remain missing across several districts of Sikkim, while close to 2,500 have been evacuated, as rising currents destroyed more than a dozen bridges and carried away vehicles and houses downstream.
Rescue operations have been made difficult by roads being cut off and bad weather conditions, which have prevented military helicopters being deployed.
Rajiv Roka, the additional director of the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority, told EFE that a drop in rains has allowed them to expand the search for survivors.
“It’s getting better, the rescues are happening and the waters have come down to their normal level,” he said.
The missing persons include 22 soldiers who were trapped as the Teesta River swelled near the town of Singtam.
On Wednesday, the Indian Army said it had successfully rescued one of the missing soldiers, who was in a stable condition.
Sikkim authorities have reported the death of six soldiers in the Pakyong district, although it was not clear whether these were among the missing soldiers.
The flash floods, among the worst in the history of the region which borders Nepal, China and Bhutan, started in the beginning of this week after glacial lake Lhonak overflowed its banks.
As intense rains lashed the region, floods caused by the breach in the lake carried away houses and roads and resulted in the collapse of the Chungthang hydroelectric dam, resulting in 4-6 meter high torrents.
The collapse of the 1,200-megawatt power project, among the biggest of its kind in the country, aggravated the disaster.
This incident is a reminder of the vulnerability of the region to intense rains, with South Asian countries frequently experiencing significant human and material losses, especially during the monsoon period between May and September.
Moreover, rising global temperatures linked to climate change could increase the risk of glacial floods.
According to a 2019 study by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, at least one-third of the glaciers in the Hindu Kush and Himalaya mountain ranges were destined to melt, potentially affecting millions of people in South Asia. EFE