At least 40 people have died in a Himalayan valley in northeast India and thousands Others are homeless after flash floods caused by the overflowing of a glacial lake on Wednesday, according to a new report from the authorities on Friday.
“Nineteen bodies were found,” V.B. told AFP. Pathak, the highest civil servant in the state of Sikkim.
In neighboring West Bengal, 21 other bodies have been found in the past three days, district magistrate Shama Parveen told AFP.
Lhonak lake, which overflowed Wednesday, causing significant destruction in a valley downstream, is located at the foot of a glacier near Kangchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world.
The previous death toll announced by authorities on Thursday was at least 14, but downstream search and rescue teams recovered more bodies overnight as waters moved toward the Bay of Bengal.
Deadly floods in India © AFP – John SAEKI
Among the dead are six Indian army soldiers stationed in Sikkim, located on India's remote border with Nepal and China and which has a significant military presence.
Nearly 8,000 Others took shelter in makeshift relief camps in schools, government offices and guest houses, according to a Sikkim state statement.
– Army mobilized –
With weather conditions improving on Friday, “there could be a window of opportunity to evacuate stranded tourists by helicopter,” the statement added.
Cranes damaged in Rangpo after flash floods, October 6, 2023 in India © AFP – Sanjay AGARWAL
A statement from the Indian army said that soldiers participating in the rescue operations were able to rescue nearly 1,500 tourists stranded in the areas worst hit by the floods.
Army helicopters also dropped supplies to groups of stranded people, V.B. told the press. Pathak.
“We are making all possible efforts to provide relief materials to the populations and restore infrastructure,” he added.
A veritable wall of water poured into a river already swollen by monsoon rains. The waters damaged a dam and washed away buildings, homes, bridges and telephone lines, complicating evacuations and communication efforts with thousands of people isolated from the rest of the country.
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 – –
Extensive damage extends more than 120 kilometers downstream, roads in the region are “severely” damaged and 14 bridges have been destroyed, according to authorities.
The floods have wreaked destruction in four districts of the state, washing away people, roads and bridges,” Himangsu Tiwary, an army spokesperson, told AFP.
– Climate change to blame –
The Indian government said it had approved the release of funding for relief and recovery efforts. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised “all possible support” to affected populations.
Photo released by the Indian Ministry of Defense, October 5, 2023, of search operations for flood victims, in the state of Sikkim, India © Indian Ministry of Defense – –
According to satellite images released by the Indian Space Research Organization, Lake Lhonak shrank by two-thirds after overflowing, losing a water area of about 105 hectares, the equivalent of 150 football fields.
Between 2011 and 2020, Himalayan glaciers melted 65% faster than in the previous decade, according to a report published in June by the Nepal-based International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). .
“The root cause is climate change and this will increase in the future,” Arun Bhakta Shrestha, climate change specialist at ICIMOD, told AFP.
“None of the scenarios are good,” he added. “Even the most modest scenario tells us that (…) such sudden glacial lake flood events are very likely.”
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, climate scientists say.
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