Jun 21 2013

Devastating Floods in Uttarakhand, India (Footage)

Kedarnath temple priest Dinesh Bagwari told BBC Hindi that he heard a loud explosion as a lake above the town burst its banks.

“The floods arrived minutes later and everything was gone in 15 minutes,” he said.

“We spent 36 hours without water or food. I saw several hundred people trapped in inhuman conditions. Five of my family members are missing and my 17-year-old son is stranded there.” (BBC)

Rescue missions have begun but have been hampered by conditions, especially landslides. 14 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), as well as around 6,000 Indian army troops have been deployed. Indian Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, has said that emergency food relief is being sent to the affected areas. The rescue teams report that around 4,000 people have been rescued so far, but there are as many as 60,000 still stranded. Around 18 military helicopters have been used in rescue missions. The rescue operation has its HQ in Badrinath. Food and blankets have been sent out where possible, and medical teams have been set up at various points across the region. (FloodList)

The stunning footage above just shows the erosive power of the Ganges at flood flow through the area of Uttarkashi. I can’t believe the footage a little later in the video that shows people on the second floor of a different building that is right at the edge of the channel. Leave the building!

In the above clip from NBC, check out the velocities in the channel and the extreme high flow. In one shot, you can see people sitting on what looks like a downstream extension of a pier as the water approaches the low chord of the bridge. That’s not a place I would recommend hanging out during that flow but I imagine you get some pretty good views of the powerful flow!

This final clip gives a good picture of just how bad the destruction is, mentioning the Kedarnath area of the famous Kedarnath shrine in the higher mountainous valley (about 50 miles directly west of Uttarkashi) and showing the massive mud flow through the town on one of the tributaries to the Ganges.

Uttarakhand is no stranger to flood disasters and horrific landslides in recent years. In 2010, around 72 people died in flash floods in September that year. In 2011, 77 people died in floods and landslides in the state over a period of a few weeks after the monsoon rains first struck in July that year. In 2012, the Himalayan Flash Floods of that year affected Uttarakhand and neighbouring states, with as many as 31 people dead and 40 missing.

Uttarakhand is a mountainous state, with large areas of forest, especially the lower foothills of the Himalayas. However, deforestation has been a big issue lately, and experts say rapid deforestation and construction work in the hills are some of the reasons behind frequent floods and landslides. Blasts to clear tunnels or build dams for various large engineering projects, such as mining and hydro-power, have resulted in landslides and the build up of debris in the rivers. This means that rivers levels are already high, before the monsoon rains even begin to fall. Deforestation also adds to the problem, resulting in soil erosion and further landslides. (FloodList)

Below are some other articles and photo slideshows of what is happening, especially check out FloodList’s article as they have some great background information and a great map of the hard hit areas.

Uttarakhand Floods, India (FloodList)

A view of the Hindu holy town of Kedarnath from a helicopter after a flood, in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, India, Tuesday, June 18, 2013.

India Floods: Race to Save Uttarakhand Victims (BBC)

In pictures: India Floods (BBC)

India Floods: Up to 1,000 Feared Dead (Sky News)

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