153 people are known to have died and thousands more are trapped after the Chorabari Glacier in Uttarkhand State, India, partially collapsed amid heavy rains associated with the onset of the Indian monsoon season. A wave of icy slush and mud described as two stories high hit the town of Kedarnath, home of a Temple to the god Shiva, which is a popular pilgrimage site. The temple complex is said to be damaged but still standing, while much of the surrounding town has been destroyed. The Chorabari Glacier has retreated 326 m since records began in 1960, and may have been retreating since the mid eighteenth century. It is the source for the Mandakini River, a tributary of the Alaknanda River, and is itself an important site of Hindu pilgrimage.
Destruction in Kedarneth following the collapse of the Chorabari Glacier. STR/AFP.
The area has suffered extensive flooding with several rivers having burst their banks. At least 20 bridges and 365 houses have been destroyed, and hundreds of miles of roads have been washed away. In addition the area has suffered a large number of landslides, a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall, but the situation in Uttarkhand is thought to have been made much worse by extensive deforestation, sand extraction and quarrying (much of it illegal) and unregulated building construction across the affected area.
The Indian Government has begun a major rescue attempt in the area, where it is feared that thousands of trapped Hindu pilgrims from all over the world may become victims to disease and starvation. Lists of rescued pilgrims are being published on the websites http://uttarakhandpolice.uk.gov.in and www.uk.gov.in.
Buildings partially submerged by the swollen Alaknanda River in Govind Ghat, Uttarkhand State, India. AP.
A road partially destroyed by a landslide over a swollen river in Uttarkhand State. AFP/Getty Images.
The swollen River Ganges breaking over a statue of Shiva in Rishikesh, Uttarkhand State. State. AFP/Getty Images.
See also Three workers killed in landslide at Mumbai quarry, Seven killed in Nepal landslide, Three workers killed in rockfall at Thai limestone quarry, Fifteen-year-old boy killed in Kathmandu landslide and Huge iceberg breaks away from Peterman Glacier, Greenland.
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