The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which is helping in the rescue and relief work being carried out in after a devastating flash floods in Uttarakhand, said on Sunday that 100-150 people are believed to be dead in the disaster. ITBP chief SS Deswal said 8-10 bodies have been recovered so far.
"It is suspected that around 100 workers were at the site. Of which, 9-10 dead bodies have been recovered from the river. Search operation underway," news agency ANI quoted Deswal as saying.
The ITBP said that three of its teams - from 1st battalion and those from mountaineering and skiing institute (M&SI) in Auli - are carrying out the rescue operations in Raini village in Tapovan area of Chamoli district.
Describing the sequence of events, the ITBP said that the flash flood was reported at 10:45 am in the Righi Ganga river after a glacier broke.
"It exponentially increased the volume of water. Due to this, the Rishiganga hydro project near Raini village was completely devastated," it said in a statement.
The Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project (RGHEP) is a run-of-river hydroelectric project for development on the Rishi Ganga River, a tributary of the Alaknanda River, in the Chamoli district.
"The BRO bridge on Joshimath-Malari highway was also completely washed away. There were six graziers with their livestock and they were also taken away by flash flood," the force further said.
The NTPC project in Tapovan was swept away completely. At least 40 people were working at the plant, local authorities said.
The disaster also affected connectivity at the ITBP border outposts and washed away three bridges.
Around 17 labourers, who had entered a tunnel, are safe and in the process of being evacuated by the ITBP.
Meanwhile, the army said that six columns (around 600 personnel) are moving towards the flood-affected areas. "Indian Army has deployed choppers and troops for supporting Uttarakhand government and NDRF to tackle the flood. Military station near Rishikesh actively involved in the coordination of rescue and relief operations with local administration. Army headquarters are monitoring the situation," said Army.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah have assured all possible help to the state. The home ministry is monitoring the situation after the water level in the Dhauliganga river increased suddenly.
"Am constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand. India stands with Uttarakhand & nation prays for everyone's safety there. Have been continuously speaking to senior authorities & getting updates on NDRF deployment, rescue work and relief operations," PM Modi tweeted on Sunday.
The state government has, meanwhile, set up a helpline for stranded and affected people. They can call at 1070 or 9557444486.
Officials said the glacier breaking sent water trapped behind it as well as mud and other debris surging down the mountain and into other bodies of water. An advisory was issued urging people living on the banks of the Alaknanda River to move to safer places immediately.
In 2013, more than 1,000 people were killed in Uttarakhand heavy rains triggered landslides and floods, washing away thousands of houses and roads and cutting communication links in many parts of the state.