Catastrophic Glacial Lake Burst in India Leaves 19 Dead, Over 100 Missing

By manish198832 Nov 26, 2023

Catastrophic Glacial Lake Burst in India

Catastrophic Glacial Lake-In the northeastern region of India, more than 100 individuals are missing, and at least 19 have lost their lives due to a glacial lake burst triggered by heavy rainfall. The Himalayan state of Sikkim experienced flash floods on Wednesday, causing significant destruction to infrastructure, with roads and bridges being washed away, as reported by the state government.

Catastrophic Glacial Lake

Catastrophic Glacial Lake-The calamity originated from a sudden cloudburst over Lhonak Lake, located in the northern part of the state. This event resulted in fast-moving torrents of water rushing down the Teesta River in Sikkim’s Lachen valley, causing water levels to rise 15-20 feet above normal, according to a statement by the Indian Army. A cloudburst is a rapid and destructive rainstorm.

The Chungthang Dam, also known as the Teesta 3 dam and a crucial part of a major hydropower project in the state, was reported to have been washed away, as confirmed by the National Disaster Management Authority.

The impact of the disaster has left drinking water supplies and sewage treatment plants severely damaged across the affected districts. Videos and images depict the rapid overflow of muddy waters in the northern part of the state, inundating houses with dirt and debris. Search and rescue operations are currently underway, involving both state and national disaster personnel.

Lhonak Lake, identified as one of the fastest swelling glacial lakes in the region with a high risk for glacial outburst, experienced a significant drainage of over 60% of its water volume following the extreme rainstorm. Satellite images from the Indian Space Research Organization revealed the lake’s reduction from 167.4 hectares to approximately 60.3 hectares.

Catastrophic Glacial Lake-Scientists had previously warned of the potential for a glacial lake outburst at Lhonak Lake, conducting expeditions and implementing short-term measures such as installing pipelines to mitigate the risk. Despite these efforts, the disaster unfolded as predicted.

The city of Pakyong in Sikkim bore the brunt of the floods, with seven fatalities and 59 individuals reported missing. Among the missing are members of the Indian Army, complicating search and rescue operations due to incessant rains and flooded infrastructure.

The aftermath includes the collapse of at least 11 bridges, hindering rescue efforts and isolating remote areas. Evacuations are ongoing, with relief camps established to assist over 22,000 people affected by the flash floods. Helicopters are being deployed to evacuate stranded tourists.

Catastrophic Glacial Lake-The Teesta-V Hydropower Station is currently shut down, and a detailed assessment of the damage to hydropower projects will be conducted once floodwaters recede. The India Meteorological Department predicts continued heavy rainfall in the east and northeast regions, including Sikkim, for the next two days.

Catastrophic Glacial Lake-Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed support, calling the situation an “unfortunate natural calamity” and offering assistance. The disaster highlights the vulnerability of the Himalayan region to the climate crisis, with glaciers feeding rivers that supply freshwater to two billion people. The potential loss of glaciers, exacerbated by rising temperatures, increases the risk of floods, landslides, and other climate-related disasters in the region.

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