“The government should no longer ignore warnings from experts and stop building hydropower projects and extensive highway networks in this fragile ecosystem.”
Around 125 people were missing in northern India after a Himalayan glacier broke and swept away a small hydroelectric dam on Sunday, with floods forcing the evacuation of villages downstream.
A wall of dust, rock and water hit as an avalanche roared down the Rishiganga valley deep in the mountains of Uttarakhand, a witness said.
“It came very fast, there was no time to alert anyone,” Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives on the upper reaches of the river in Raini village, told Reuters by phone. “I felt that even we would be swept away.”
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said 125 people were missing but the number could rise. So far, the bodies of seven people had been recovered.
The disaster took place around 500 km (310 miles) north of New Delhi.
Uttarakhand is prone to flash floods and landslides and the disaster prompted calls by environment groups for a review of power projects in the ecologically sensitive mountains.
Earlier state chief secretary Om Prakash said 100 to 150 people were feared dead. A large number of the missing were workers at the 13.2 MW Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project which was destroyed by the bursting of the glacier.
Footage shared by locals showed the water washing away parts of the Rishiganga dam and everything else in its path. At least 180 sheep were washed away.
Videos on social media, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed water surging through a small dam site, washing away construction equipment.
Twelve people who had been trapped in a tunnel had been rescued and efforts were under way to save others caught in another tunnel, the federal home ministry said after a meeting of the National Crisis Committee, comprising top officials.
“India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.