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Christian Aid and partners deal with 'fear' and 'misery' on the ground following extreme flooding in India

by Chantalle Edmunds

A doctor working with Christian Aid has told Premier about the situation on the ground in Northern India after part of a Himalayan glacier broke off and sent a wall of water and debris rushing down the mountain in a disaster that has left at least 26 people dead and 170 missing.

More than 2,000 members of the military, paramilitary groups and police have been taking part in search-and-rescue operations in the northern state of Uttarakhand after Sunday's flood, which destroyed one dam, damaged another, and washed away homes downstream.

There's also been a major rescue operation underway to save more than three dozen power plant workers trapped in a tunnel.

Dr. Bhanu Pratap told Premier that he is working with Christian Aid on the ground to help the rescue mission. 

"We have got a team of task forces. So different task forces are available for rescue, first aid or other support, like for housing, for safe drinking water. And temporary shelter."

He added there is much fear and misery among those affected by the extreme flooding. There is also worry about problems on the horizon:

"Not only just health and sanitation, but in coming days maybe all those areas where the roads are blocked, where traffic is not available, there may be no vegetable there may be no transportation. So even security is at risk. 

"And because of no communication, if somebody's in pain, maybe nobody can communicate now for support. So that misery is definitely there and fear, fear is there, what will happen next?"

The flood was caused when a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier snapped off on Sunday morning, releasing water trapped behind it, a disaster which experts said could be linked to global warming.

The floodwater rushed down the mountain and into other bodies of water, forcing the evacuation of many villages along the banks of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers.

A video from India's northern state of Uttarakhand showed the muddy, concrete grey floodwaters tumbling through a valley and surging into a dam, breaking it into pieces with little resistance before roaring on downstream.

The flood turned the countryside into what looked like an ash-coloured moonscape.

According to Dr. Bhanu Pratap, the issues are compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and keeping those on the ground safe presents additional challenges:

"Actually, we are in the middle of it and caught on the back foot. Because it's becoming very difficult to tell them to have a safe distance, have a mask every time, sanitize yourself kind of thing. Keeping distance is going to be a problem because in a small area, many people are living and being evacuated and especially the cold climate is there. So in cold they cannot have distant places to stay. So the area is very small. And that makes life more miserable." he added.

Additional reporting by PA

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