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Chamoli tragedy: System to track seismological data could’ve saved ‘hundreds of lives’, says expert

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Dehradun, Mar 16 (PTI) A robust system to continuously monitor seismological data could have helped save hundreds of lives in the glacial disaster in Chamoli district on February 7 last year, an expert said on Wednesday.

A portion of the Nanda Devi glacier had broken off, triggering an avalanche and a deluge in the Alaknanda river system that washed away hydroelectric stations. Two power projects – NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydel Project and the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project – were extensively damaged.

Director of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Kalachand Sai, who recently conducted a post-mortem of the glacial disaster along with senior scientist of the institute Anil Tiwari, said that the seismic station in Tapovan had recorded creeping activity in the rock mass around two-and-a half hours ahead of its detachment and downward slide.

However, in the absence of a sound system of monitoring, the data could not be read in real time, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives.

Glacier-related activities take place normally at an altitude of 3,500 metres to 4,000 metres above the sea level where there is no human habitation.

“If the data monitoring process is made more effective by evolving a system of their automatic and online transmission round-the-clock to experts, it will help in issuing early warnings in case of a disaster and minimising its effects,” Sai told PTI.

“During our study, we found that the rock mass, which fell on February 7, 2021, causing the tragedy, took at least 20 minutes to take the form of an avalanche and the subsequent debris flow to reach the hydroelectricity projects downstream of the Rishiganga river. These 20 minutes were precious and could have been used to alert the authorities and evacuate the people to safety,” he said. The need of the hour is developing a robust network of hydrological, meteorological and seismological stations in high altitude areas of Uttarakhand and a system for the continuous online transmission of the data, recorded by them, to experts, he said.

At present, experts from the WIHG visit the Tapovan seismic station once in four to five months to manually to collect the data recorded there. “If something happens in between this period, they would not be aware of anything,” he said.

The glacial disaster in Chamoli district on February 7 last year had brought about an avalanche in the Rishiganga and Dhauliganga rivers, killing hundreds of people at Raini and Tapovan, including many who happened to be at work at Rishiganga and Tapovan-Vishnugad hydroelectricity project sites.

Bodies continue to be pulled out of a tunnel at the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydro electricity project, more than a year after the tragedy struck.

People at work inside the tunnel were caught unawares by the calamity and choked to death as a huge quantity of slush gushed into it following the avalanche. A body was last recovered on February 21 this year. Altogether, over 200 people from the Rishiganga project site at Raini and Tapovan-Vishnugad project site at Tapovan had gone missing in the tragedy. Bodies of more than 80 victims have been found while scores of them are still missing. PTI ALM ALM CJ CJ

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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