October drills begin with US and India in the Himalayas

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • United States and India to Hold Military Drills in Himalayas near China Border
  • Soldiers of the U.S. Army will deploy to a region of northern India’s Uttarakhand state — located 60 miles from India’s disputed Himalayan border with China — in October to participate in an annual joint military exercise with the Indian Armed Forces called Yudh Abhyas, the U.S. Army Pacific confirmed to Japan’s Nikkei Asia on Wednesday.
  • Though Yudh Abhyas has been held annually since 2004, this year’s drill holds extra significance as India and China remain engaged in an unofficial border standoff in the western Himalayas that began in June 2020. Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers ambushed an Indian Army border regiment in northern India’s Ladakh state on the night of June 15, 2020.
  • The surprise attack launched hours of brutal, hand-to-hand combat in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley that ultimately killed 20 Indian soldiers and an estimated 38 Chinese PLA troops. The melee’s repercussions continue to this day, as New Delhi and Beijing have yet to resolve the territorial dispute along their unmarked Himalayan boundary, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), that prompted the skirmish.
  • China, for its part, has also continued to build up a pronounced military presence along its border with India in recent months, indicating that Beijing has yet to back down from the Himalayan standoff.

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Rising waters in Indian Himalayas disrupt rescue bid in tunnel after avalanche

By Alasdair Pal and Neha Arora

TAPOVAN, India (Reuters) – Authorities in India warned on Thursday of rising water levels in a Himalayan river valley hit by a major avalanche as they scaled back a search for 35 construction workers trapped in a flooded tunnel.

Rescue workers have found the bodies of 36 people since Sunday’s avalanche that tore through dams and swept away bridges in the Dhauliganga river valley of Uttarakhand state.

Some 171 people remain unaccounted for, most of them workers at the state-run Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric project and at the smaller Rishiganga dam, which was swept away by the avalanche-driven torrent.

An official with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said the number of rescue teams were limited at the tunnel site after river water levels began to surge.

“There was an input from a village that the river upstream was swelling so we sounded an alert. The rescue mission was stopped for about 30 minutes,” Swati Bhadoriya, Chamoli District Magistrate, told Reuters.

Relief workers have been drilling inside a 2.5-km-long tunnel connected to the Tapovan project, where slush and water has been so heavy that soldiers have made only halting progress in four days.

Experts have cautioned there could be still be huge amounts of rock, debris, ice and water that could get released due to changes in temperatures.

“Snow melt or rain could trigger a debris flow at any moment, probably not of the size of the event on Sunday, but critical for anybody and anything close to the river,” said Holger Frey, a senior scientist with the Glaciology and Geomorphodynamics Group (3G) in the geography faculty at the University of Zurich.


After clearing more than 100 meters of mud, rocks and debris, relief workers on Thursday sent water tankers and generators deep into the tunnel to assist in drilling.

They were searching for signs of life in smaller tunnels and rooms branching off from the main passage, officials said.

Relatives continued to arrive at the site, but five days after the disaster, frustration at the lack of progress mounted.

“They are not telling us anything,” said Praveen Saini, whose nephew, Ajay Kumar Saini, is trapped in the tunnel.

Another man was clinging to hope that his brother had survived after he was able to ring his mobile phone. “If his phone survived, maybe he survived,” Jugal Kishore said.

Originally thought to be a glacier breaking apart in India’s second highest mountain Nanda Devi and crashing into the river, some scientists now say the flood was more likely to have been caused by an avalanche.

“It appears that the event was caused by a very large rockfall from high up the mountainside which picked up lots of snow and ice on the way down and melted these because of the frictional heat created by the rock fall,” said Stephan Harrison, professor of Climate and Environmental Change at the University of Exeter in Britain.

(Additional reporting by Saurabh Sharma and Neha Arora; Writing by Neha Arora; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Mark Heinrich)

In Indian Himalayas, drones draw blank in search for workers missing in flooded tunnel

By Alasdair Pal and Neha Arora

TAPOVAN, India (Reuters) – Rescuers in northern India made a vain attempt on Wednesday to find signs of life using a drone to search for 35 construction workers missing inside a tunnel days after a flash flood swept down a mountain valley destroying dams and bridges.

Some 204 people remain unaccounted for since Sunday’s disaster in Uttarakhand state, most of them workers at the Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric project and at the smaller Rishiganga dam, which was swept away by the torrent.

At the Tapovan tunnel’s entrance, anxious relatives lingered in heavy rain, desperate for word on whether anyone had been found.

“We don’t know what else to do,” said Deepa Chauhan the sister of 30-year-old Patminder Bisht, a supervisor among the workers at the site.

A drone with five cameras was sent inside a short stretch of the tunnel for a second day on Wednesday, but found no-one, either alive or dead, an official said.

So far, police say, 32 bodies have been retrieved from the Himalayan mountainsides or pulled out of the Dhauliganga river further downstream.

As the hours passed in the winter cold, there was a mounting risk hypothermia could kill anyone in the tunnel who had survived, said Vivek Pandey, a spokesman for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, a paramilitary force involved in the rescue effort.

Excavators had cleared more than 80 meters of mud blocking the tunnel entrance, but still have at least another 80 meters to go to reach where most of the workers were believed to be trapped, officials at the site said.

Giant boulders were blocking progress.

“Sediment and water has entered the tunnel and we are unable to clear it,” a government official monitoring the situation from New Delhi told Reuters.

Elsewhere in the valley, helicopters dropped food parcels and villagers set up a zip wire across the river to deliver supplies to some of the 13 mountain villages cut off by the disaster.

A team of scientists have reached the glacier site to determine what triggered a calamity, which fueled concern about the building of hydropower projects in the ecologically sensitive mountains.

The flash flood was initially thought to have been caused by a glacier breaking apart and crashing into the river, but some scientists now say it was more likely to have been due to an avalanche.

(Additional reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

India glacier avalanche leaves 18 dead, more than 200 missing

By Saurabh Sharma

LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – Rescuers searched for more than 200 people missing in the Indian Himalayas on Monday, including some trapped in a tunnel, after part of a glacier broke away, sending a torrent of water, rock and dust down a mountain valley.

Sunday’s violent surge below Nanda Devi, India’s second-highest peak, swept away the small Rishiganga hydro electric project and damaged a bigger one further down the Dhauliganga river being built by state firm NTPC.

Eighteen bodies have been recovered from the mountainsides, officials said.

Most of the missing were people working on the two projects, part of the many the government has been building deep in the mountains of Uttarakhand state as part of a development push.

“As of now, around 203 people are missing,” state chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said, and the number was changing as more information about people caught up by the deluge emerged from the remote area.

Videos on social media showed water surging through a small dam site, washing away construction equipment and bringing down small bridges.

“Everything was swept away, people, cattle and trees,” Sangram Singh Rawat, a former village council member of Raini, the site closest to the Rishiganga project, told local media.

It was not immediately clear what caused the glacier burst on a bright Sunday morning. Experts said it had snowed heavily last week in the Nanda Devi area and it was possible that some of the snow started melting and may have led to an avalanche.

Rescue squads were focused on drilling their way through a 2.5 km (1.5 miles) long tunnel at the Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project site that NTPC was building 5 km (3 miles) downstream where about 30 workers were believed trapped.

“We are trying to break open the tunnel, it’s a long one, about 2.5 km,” said Ashok Kumar, the state police chief. He said rescuers had gone 150 meters (yards) into the tunnel but debris and slush were slowing progress.

There had been no voice contact yet with anyone in the tunnel, another official said. Heavy equipment has been employed and a dog squad flown to the site to locate survivors.

On Sunday, 12 people were rescued from another much smaller tunnel.


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. In June 2013, record monsoon rains there caused devastating floods that claimed close to 6,000 lives.

A team of scientists were flown over the site of the latest accident on Monday to find out what exactly happened.

“It’s a very rare incident for a glacial burst to happen. Satellite and Google Earth images do not show a glacial lake near the region, but there’s a possibility that there may be a water pocket in the region,” said Mohd Farooq Azam, assistant professor, glaciology & hydrology at the Indian Institute of Technology in Indore.

Water pockets are lakes inside the glaciers, which may have erupted leading to this event. Environmental groups have blamed construction activity in the mountains.

Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator of the South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People, said that there were clear government recommendations against the use of explosives for construction purposes. “There have been violations.”

The latest accident had also raised questions about the safety of the dams. “The dams are supposed to withstand much greater force. This was not a monsoon flood, it was much smaller.”

(Additional reporting by Nivedita Bhattachargee and Neha Arora; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Michael Perry, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Giles Elgood)