(AFP) – The death toll from a devastating glacial lake burst that triggered a torrential flash flood in India has risen to at least 10 people, with 82 others still missing, according to officials.
“Flood waters have caused havoc in four districts of the state sweeping away people, roads, bridges,” Himanshu Tiwari, an Indian Army spokesman told AFP on Thursday, speaking a day after the wall of water poured down the mountainous valley in northeast Sikkim state.
Authorities said roads had been “severely” damaged and that 14 bridges had been washed away.
“Ten bodies have been recovered so far, and 82 people are missing, including army personnel,” Sikkim state chief secretary Vijay Bhushan Pathak told reporters late Wednesday.
Among the missing are 22 soldiers, the army said. One soldier was rescued. The water surge was caused by a burst of the high-altitude Lhonak Lake — which sits at the base of a glacier in peaks surrounding the world’s third-highest mountain, Kangchenjunga.
Violent flooding from glacier lakes dammed by loose rock has become more frequent as global temperatures rise and ice melts.
A wall of water powered downstream, adding to a river already swollen by monsoon rains, damaging a dam and sweeping houses and bridges in its path and causing “serious destruction”, the Sikkim state government said.
Lhonak Lake had shrunk by nearly two-thirds in size overnight, an area roughly equivalent to about 150 football pitches (105 hectares), satellite photographs released by the Indian Space Research Organisation showed.