At least 14 people were killed and 102 were missing on Thursday after heavy rains caused a Himalayan glacial lake in northeast India to burst its banks, the worst such disaster in the region in more than five decades.
The Lhonak Lake in Sikkim state burst its banks on Wednesday causing major flooding, which authorities said had impacted the lives of 22,000 people. It is the latest deadly weather event in South Asia’s mountains being blamed on climate change.
The weather department said Sikkim received 101 mm (4 inches) of rain in the first five days of October, more than double normal levels, triggering floods worse than one in October 1968 in which an estimated 1,000 people were killed.
The department has predicted heavy rain over the next three days in parts of Sikkim and neighbouring states.
The latest flooding was exacerbated by water released from state-run NHPC’s Teesta V dam, local officials said. Four of the dam’s gates had been washed away and it was not clear why they had not been opened in time, a government source told Reuters.
As of early Thursday, the state disaster management agency said 26 people had been injured and 102 were missing, 22 of whom were army personnel. Eleven bridges had been washed away, hampering rescue operations which were already affected by heavy rainfall.
Authorities in neighbouring Bangladesh were on alert with a state-run water development board official warning that five districts in the northern part of the country could be inundated with a rise in the level of the Teesta river, which enters Bangladesh downstream of Sikkim.
“Continued efforts are on to dig out vehicles submerged under the slush at Burdang near Singtam. The search for the missing persons is now focusing in the areas downstream of Teesta river,” an Indian defence spokesperson said.