Rana was lucky. He saw disaster unfold from above in Raini Village, as he was building a new railroad for the Hyderabad-based Rithwik Railroad Company. But several of his co-workers below couldn’t see the danger on the road.
Those from the highest point shouted to warn them.
“The five or six who heard them ran. Some people were rescued,” Rana said.
The rest are among the nearly 200 people still missing after a section of a glacier collapsed on Sunday in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, causing a massive avalanche that traversed a mountain strait and smashed a dam.
A handful of people were rescued by the authorities immediately after the disaster, and another 126 people were rescued from the nearby Niti Valley by helicopter.
Three days after the tragedy, the search for survivors continues. So far, 32 bodies have been found – and as the clock continues to tick, hope for those still waning.
A handful of villages in the remote area, where roads are few and far between, are now cut off from the outside world, including Rana’s home in Ban, where his wife is stuck.
It is not clear exactly why a chunk of the glacier fell, triggering the avalanche. Indian Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament that a landslide triggered an “avalanche” that extended over an area of 14 square kilometers, causing flash floods.
Manish Mehta, a senior scientist at the friendly Institute of Himalayan Geology, who is inspecting the site with four colleagues, said preliminary evidence shows that a “megalithic slide” near the glacier may be the cause of the avalanche. He added that the scale of the ensuing floods was unprecedented and could affect “more than 100 square kilometers (38 square miles).”
Dr. Dan Sugar, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Calgary, said in a tweet Tuesday that the analysis “indicates a landslide that destroyed a portion of a suspended glacier.”
“The glacier we think has collapsed is a very steep glacier. It is not a typical glacier for a valley, with a low slope / slope, and sometimes it has lakes at its end,” Sugar said, adding that the landslide likely contained Both base rocks and rocks are glacial ice. “He descended from a steep cliff and likely shattered when he hit the valley floor.
As the ice melts, the glaciers become unstable and begin to retreat. A 2019 study found that Himalayan glaciers are melting twice as fast than a century ago, losing nearly half a meter (1.6 feet) of ice every year.
Others pointed to construction along the state’s rivers, which in recent years have seen an increasing number of hydroelectric dams and the projects and infrastructure that connect them, such as roads and new developments.
The avalanche trapped dozens of workers who were building a series of underground tunnels for a new power plant near the dam, including Virendra Kumar Gautam. That day, at around 11 a.m., he and his team heard shouting from outside the tunnel asking them to leave.
He ordered his team to move. After traveling 50 meters (164 feet), Gotham recalls, “Suddenly a flood entered, and the glacier and water entered in full force.”
Gautam and the others climbed emergency ladders built into the walls. Their section of the tunnel was only 4.5 meters (14.5 feet) high, but soon the water reached about 3.5 meters (11.5 feet).
He said, “I kept helping the people to go up and tell them that they will survive and not have to worry, everything will be fine.”
Gautam was right. He said the water level suddenly dropped, becoming shallow enough to pass the group and climbing about 350 meters (1,150 feet) over emergency stairs to the roof.
Gautam said his team took about 90 minutes, but they eventually made it to safety.
Others, however, were not so lucky. There are still people trapped in the tunnels, and authorities say those inside might not have survived unless the debris somehow clogged the water and left enough air in the tunnels for the men to breathe.
Vidhidhar Malitha, a Prithac employee overseeing the rescue effort, said the four side tunnels and the main tunnel were all filled with debris.
He said they removed about 90 meters (295 feet) of debris, and the height of the tunnel decreased from 25 to 30 meters (82 to 98 feet). But mud and rocks still blocked the road.
“There is a lot of debris,” Malitha said.
CNN’s Helen Reagan, Isha Mitra, Manvina Suri, Swati Gupta, Radina Jigova and Vidika Sood contributed to this report.