Uttarakhand glacial burst update: Death toll rises to 72, rescue op underway

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DG ITBP S S Deswal along with senior officials reviews rescue and restoration work at Tapovan and Raini area, weeks after the glacier burst at Joshimath which triggered a massive flash flood on Feb. 7, in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. (PTI)DG ITBP S S Deswal along with senior officials reviews rescue and restoration work at Tapovan and Raini area, weeks after the glacier burst at Joshimath which triggered a massive flash flood on Feb. 7, in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. (PTI) 3 min read . Updated: 27 Feb 2021, 11:59 AM IST Staff Writer DNA samples of bodies that have not been identified are being preservedMissing reports of 205 persons have been registered at Joshimath police station so far

The death toll in the Uttarakhand glacier burst incident has reached 72 as two more bodies and 30 parts of human bodies were recovered from the debris, according to the state government on Saturday.

"So far, 72 bodies and 30 human body parts have been recovered from different places in the avalanche hit areas out of which 40 bodies and one human body part have been identified," said Chamoli district police.

DNA samples of bodies that have not been identified are being preserved.

Missing reports of 205 persons have been registered at Joshimath police station so far.

DNA samples of 110 family members of missing people, 58 bodies and 28 human body parts have been sent to Forensic Science Laboratory in Dehradun for matching, it said.

Meanwhile, the rescue and search operation for missing people is underway. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel along with National Disaster Response Force and other sister agencies have been conducting search and rescue operations in Chamoli district.

A glacier burst earlier in the Tapovan-Reni area of Chamoli District of Uttarakhand triggered massive flooding in the Dhauliganga and Alaknanda rivers that damaged houses and the nearby Rishiganga power project.

Former Union minister Uma Bharti had visited Tapovan to review the search operations which have been underway at the NTPC's damaged hydel project site for 19 days.

New satellite images by NASA shows crack in mountain ice

Sheer, glacier-covered ridges separated by gorges soar over the Chamoli district in northern India. On the morning of February 7, 2021, this terrain in Uttarakhand turned deadly when a torrent of rock, ice, sediment, and water surged through the Rishiganga River valley past multiple villages and slammed into two hydropower stations.

The scale of the damage in the Himalayan district of Chamoli was devastating. Hundreds of people were swept away by the chaotic rush of water and debris. Dozens of people, many of them workers at the power plants, lost their lives; others ended up trapped in tunnels, prompting dramatic rescue attempts. Numerous homes, bridges, and roads were ruined.

"On February 21, 2021, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured a view of the landscape in the wake of the event. Initially, there was some confusion about what caused the catastrophe, but a group of remote sensing scientists have mined satellite data for clues to fill in the sequence of events."

Months before the landslide, satellite images showed a crack opening on an ice-covered flank of Ronti, a 6,029-meter (19,780-foot) mountain peak. On February 7, 2021, a huge chunk of a steep slope broke off from the peak, bringing down part of a hanging glacier perched on the ridge. After freefalling for roughly two kilometers, the rock and ice shattered as it slammed into the ground, producing an enormous landslide and dust cloud. As the accelerating rock and ice raced through Ronti Gad and then Rishiganga River valley, it picked up glacial sediments and melted snow. All the materials mixed into a fast-moving slurry that overwhelmed the river and churned wildly as it rushed through the river valley.

What triggered the rock and hanging glacier to fall in Uttarakhand remains an open question. University of Calgary geomorphologist Dan Shugar is among a group of scientists trying to find an answer to that and other questions about the disaster. As part of the effort, they are analyzing several types of meteorological, geologic, and modeling data to supplement and contextualize the satellite imagery. They hope to determine what role weather conditions, the tectonic environment, and shifting climate conditions might have played in priming the rock and ice for collapse.

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