Indian rescue teams searched on Thursday for 102 people missing after a devastating flash flood triggered by a high-altitude glacial lake burst killed at least 14, officials said.
Violent flooding from glacier lakes dammed by loose rock has become more frequent as global temperatures rise and ice melts, with climate scientists warning it poses an increasing danger across the wider Himalayan mountain range.
“The number of human lives lost is 14 so far, and the number of missing is 102,” Prabhakar Rai, director of the Sikkim state disaster management authority, told AFP a day after a wall of water rushed down the mountainous valley in northeastern India.
Authorities said roads had been “severely” damaged and 14 bridges had been washed away.
Rescuers were battling to help those hit by the flood, with communications cut across large areas, and 25 relief camps set up for those forced to flee their homes.
“Floodwaters have caused havoc in four districts of the state, sweeping away people, roads, bridges,” Himanshu Tiwari, an Indian Army spokesman, told AFP.
Twenty-two soldiers are among the missing, the army said. One previously missing soldier was rescued.
The army was working to reestablish telephone connections and provide “medical aid to tourists and locals stranded”, it said in a statement.
The water surge came after intense rainfall burst the high-altitude Lhonak Lake, which sits at the base of a glacier in peaks surrounding the world’s third-highest mountain, Kangchenjunga.
Himalayan glaciers are melting faster than ever due to climate change, exposing communities to unpredictable and costly disasters, according to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) research group.