A glacier broke off in India’s Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday, causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river and endangering the lives of people living along its banks. Massive destruction is feared. More than 150 labourers working at the Rishi Ganga power project may have been directly affected, said State Disaster Response Force DIG Ridhim Aggarwal.

Many villages were evacuated as floods swept away five bridges, damaged homes and the nearby NTPC power plant, and washed away a small hydro power project near Rishiganga. Six people were injured. National and state disaster response teams have been deployed, as have teams from the ITBP. The Army has sent six columns and the Navy seven diving teams. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety.”

The state government has already issued alert till Rishikesh and Haridwar due to expected rise in various rivers due to flooding by the lake burst. Parts of neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh have also been alerted due to possible rise in the levels of river Ganga as well as its tributaries.

The incident occurred after the water level in Dhauliganga river, one of the six feeders of the Ganga river, suddenly surged on Sunday morning near the Rishi Ganga power project. The 85 km river meets the Alaknanda river at Vishnuprayag at the base of Joshimath mountain in Uttarakhand. While the sudden rise in water levels have affected the Joshimath area, the water level in the Alaknanda river is gradually returning back to normal, tweeted the Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.

What glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF)?

A glacial lake outburst is a type of outburst flood that takes place occurs when water dammed by a glacier or moraine is released. To simplify it, GLOF is an outburst that happens when a dam containing a glacial lake fails.