Too early to determine cause of Chamoli disaster: Experts

Express News Service
DEHRADUN: Scientists and experts said that it is too early to determine cause of the flash floods in Chamoli district that has killed 32 people and has left 174 missing. 

The state government has reportedly issued written instructions refraining the scientists and experts from making any comments or statements until something concrete comes out in any investigation.

Kalachand Sai, director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, said, “At this stage it is difficult to pin point the exact cause of the flash floods. We are on the ground taking samples and examining everything. Only after the analysis can we tell what exactly has happened.”

The team of five scientists from the institution are in Tapovan, Raini and other locations to collect samples of muck, water and debris for tests that can help find out the cause of the disaster. 

They said that both the causes – glacier break and avalanche cannot be ruled out.  

“There can be multiple causes such as an avalanche or glacier break or may be both. We do not see any reason to determine it as a standard Glacial Lake Outburst Flood,” said Sai. 

A preliminary finding by the Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), which is part of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has established that the flash floods occurred due to landslide ruling out glacial burst or GLOF (Glacial Lake Outburst Flood).

A scientist from the institution who wanted to remain anonymous, said, “Our preliminary findings indicate that a landslide was triggered at around 5600 meters of altitude. It was a combination of rocks, snow from recent snowfall on February 4, 5 and the ice of the glacier. The area of 0.3 square kilometers covered by the landslide made the first fall of 1.8 kilometers on the steep slope due to which the flash floods occurred.”

The website of the IIRS says, “It has been observed from the satellite data of Feb 7, 2021 in catchment of Rishi Ganga river at the terminus of the glacier at an altitude of 5600 meter, a landslide triggered a snow avalanche covering approximately 14  sq.km area and causing a flash flood in the downstream Rishi Ganga river. It is estimated that flash flood had generated 2-3 million cubic meter of water in a short span of time.”

Meanwhile, scientists from DRDO and various other institutions across the country have reached Chamoli to investigate the cause.

A team from Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) of the DRDO also reached Chamoli on Monday.