Indian rescuers are searching for around 100 people missing in a valley in northeastern India. Following flash floods caused by the overflow of a Himalayan glacial lake which caused at least 14 deaths, indicated Thursday the authorities.
“The number of human lives lost is 14 so far, and the number of missing is 102,” said Prabhakar Rai, director of the state disaster management authority. of Sikkim.
Among the missing are 22 soldiers, the army said. A twenty-third person was rescued.
The army is working to restore telephone connections and provide “medical aid to stranded tourists and locals”, it said in a statement.
The affected area, a mountainous region and isolated from the Himalayas, is located near the border with Nepal and China.
Lake Lhonak, which overflowed on Wednesday, causing significant destruction in a valley downstream, is located in foot of a glacier near Kangchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world.
– 25 camps deployed –
A veritable wall of water poured into a river already swollen by monsoon rains. The waters damaged a dam and swept away houses and bridges among other “serious destruction”, declared the government of Sikkim.
Relief teams are working to help the victims of these flooding, with communications cut off in large areas. They deployed 25 camps for those who lost or had to leave their homes.
Extensive damage extends more than 120 kilometers downstream, roads in the region are “severely” damaged and 14 bridges have been destroyed, according to authorities.
Photo released by the Indian army, on October 4, 2023, of flooding in the state of Sikkim after a flash flood caused the overflow of a glacial lake in the Himalayas © Indian Army – –
“The “floods have wreaked destruction in four districts of the state, washing away people, roads and bridges,” Himangsu Tiwary, an army spokesperson, told AFP.
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised “all possible support” to the affected populations.
According to satellite images released by the Indian Space Research Organization, Lake Lhonak has shrunk by two-thirds, losing a water area of about 105 hectares, the equivalent of 150 football fields.
Floods and landslides are relatively frequent in India and cause a lot of damage, particularly during the monsoon, from June to September. But, in October, the monsoon is usually almost over.
– “Catastrophic situation” –
Floods caused by overflowing glacial lakes, often accompanied by falling rocks, are becoming more common as global temperatures rise and ice melt increases.
Photo released by the Indian Ministry of Defense, October 4, 2023, of residents of Muguthang evacuated after a flash flood caused by the overflow of a glacial lake in the Himalayas, in northeastern India © Indian Ministry of Defense – –
“Intense rainfall led to this catastrophic situation in Sikkim,” said Miriam Jackson, a scientist specializing in ice monitoring in the Himalayan regions.
“We are seeing the frequency of these extreme events increase as the climate continues to warm, taking us into uncharted territory,” added Ms. Jackson, in a statement from the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). /p>
The average surface temperature of the Earth has increased by almost 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, but high mountain regions around the world have warmed at twice the rate , according to climatologists.
According to experts, climate change has increased the intensity of tropical storms, including more heavy rains, causing sudden flooding.
Population exposed to flooding from glacial lakes © AFP – Julia Han JANICKI
The melting of Himalayan glaciers is also increasing the volume of rivers while unregulated construction in areas prone to flooding can expose local populations to disasters.
Between 2011 and 2020, Himalayan glaciers melted 65% faster than in the previous decade, according to a report published in June by the 'ICIMOD.
Based on current emissions trajectories, glaciers could lose up to 80% of their current volume by the end of the century, this organization has estimated intergovernmental organization headquartered in Nepal.
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