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At least 14 killed in flash flood in India after glacier collapse

At least 14 people have been killed and around 170 are missing in northern India after a glacier collapsed into a river, causing a flash flood.

The government of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand said 15 people had been rescued and 14 bodies had been found so far, after the glacier broke in the Himalayan region.

Authorities said at least 170 people are still missing, but that number could be much higher, with local police chief Ashok Kumar saying on Sunday that 200 people were missing from the power stations alone.

Twelve people were rescued on Sunday in a tunnel, but 25 to 30 people are still trapped in another tunnel, Piyoosh Rautela, head of state aid for disaster victims, told AFP.

A spokesman for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) told AFP that 200 rescuers had resumed the search at dawn on Monday in the state of Uttarakhand.

Hundreds of soldiers and paramilitaries supported by helicopters and military planes were sent to the scene to participate in the rescue operations.

‘The earth was shaking’

The glacier fell in the Dhauliganga River valley, causing a huge swell of water destroying everything in its path, submerging a hydroelectric complex and washing away roads and bridges, according to images taken by terrified residents.

“There was a cloud of dust when the water passed. The earth was shaking like an earthquake,” one resident, Om Agarwal, told Indian television.

Located in the Himalayas, Uttarakhand is an Indian state where the Ganges River rises. The Dhauliganga River is a tributary of the Ganges.

Dozens of employees of the two power stations installed on the Richiganga dam are missing, as well as local residents who were swept away by the waters while caring for their livestock, according to the authorities.

The dam was devastated by the flood caused by the fall of part of a glacier that broke away from an upstream mountain wall.

About 20 employees were trapped in a tunnel, 12 of whom were rescued.

The main road had been washed away and the tunnel was filled with mud and rocks. The rescuers had to use ropes to reach the entrance.

Villages in the mountains overlooking the river were evacuated, and authorities said Sunday evening that most of the danger of flooding had passed.

Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was following the relief efforts. “India stands with the people of Uttarakhand and the nation is praying for the safety of all in the region,” he said on Twitter.

Fourteen glaciers overlook the river in the Nanda Devi National Park. They are the subject of scientific studies, because of climate change and deforestation which increases the risk of breakage. The melting of a quarter of the Himalayan ice observed over the last four decades is attributable to rising temperatures.

In 2013, devastating monsoon floods killed 6,000 people in the state, prompting calls to review development projects in Uttarakhand, especially in remote areas such as the Rishi Ganga Dam.

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