The Planet & I
THE WEEK|March 07, 2021
Climate disasters have turned from newspaper stories to personal experiences
Anjuly Mathai

Twelve men walked into an underground tunnel at Tapovan in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on the morning of February 7. Three hours later, pandemonium broke loose when they heard the whoosh of rushing waters. Soon, the tunnel entrance was flooded and they were trapped around 350 metres from the entrance. Hanging on to iron rods on the tunnel walls or clinging to the top of an excavator, the men watched as the water level climbed. As hours passed, they started shivering in the cold and hummed songs to keep their spirits up—romantic ones, classics, and, as hope began dulling, tragic ones.

Seven hours later they were rescued by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) after one of them found network in his phone. Others were not as lucky. At least 62 people lost their lives in the Uttarakhand flash floods, believed by many to have been caused by a landslide. Many scientists agree that climate change played a significant role in the floods. “High mountain rocks are often heavily fractured,” says senior climatologist Kailash Pandey. “These fractures are filled with ice, which glues the rock mass. Global warming is causing this ice to deteriorate, which is weakening the rock mass leading to these big slope collapses.” According to him, in the last 60 years, Uttarakhand has witnessed an increase of 0.6 degree Celsius.

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