Monday, March 1, 2021

India fears another flash flood from new Himalayan lake

India fears another flash flood from new Himalayan lake

A newly formed Himalayan lake raised fears Friday of another flash flood above a disaster-hit valley in northern India, prompting authorities to conduct helicopter surveys and send a team on a 16-hour climb to investigate.

Thirty-eight people died and 166 are still missing, state disaster officials said, after a barrage of water and debris hurtled down the valley in the northern state of Uttarakhand with terrifying speed and force on Sunday, obliterating roads and bridges and smashing through dams.

The flash flood on the Rishiganga river is thought have been triggered by a chunk of glacier breaking off, or a glacial lake — formed when a glacier retreats — bursting its banks.

Glaciers are receding fast in the region due to global warming.

On Thursday, geologists said that a new lake had formed near the same river.

Naresh Rana, a geologist at Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University, released a video shot in the area, in which he pointed out the location of the lake and said “this means that the Rishiganga will breach again”.

Satellite images and a helicopter survey had confirmed the presence of the lake, senior local police official Ashok Kumar told AFP.

He said that teams had been sent to investigate on foot, a trek that would take around 16 hours, with the spot at around 4,200 metres (14,000 feet) above sea level.

“But there is one important thing to note. For the last few days, there was less water flow in the Rishiganga. But since yesterday, the flow is a lot,” Kumar said.

“That means that the lake has given some opening. It would have been dangerous if the water had just been collected and there was no flow.”

A desperate and arduous search continued on Friday to reach around 30 people trapped in a tunnel since Sunday’s flood, with hopes fading for their survival.

“We are trying to go to the smaller tunnel which is 12 metres below the existing one,” Kumar said.

“In the small tunnel, we are hoping for the best… If they escaped the slush and the water, they might be safe in one corner.”

Dutch ignore warnings not to skate on thin ice, fall through
The Hague (AFP) Feb 12, 2021 -
Several people ignored warnings not to skate on the thin ice of a rarely-frozen pond in the Netherlands on Friday only to plunge into the chilly waters behind the offices of the prime minister, who was among those warning them off.

The country was hit by its first proper snowstorm in over a decade on the weekend, sparking excitement in the pancake-flat country where almost everyone is said to have a pair of skates ready for when the canals freeze over.

But Prime Minister Mark Rutte has warned against mass skating, to avoid the risk of spreading Covid-19 as well as injuries potentially clogging already under pressure hospitals.

The city council of The Hague issued a more specific warning for no one to skate on the Hofvijver pond because the ice was too thin — several people had already fallen in trying.

But that didn’t stop several amateur enthusiasts on Friday, who promptly broke through the ice into the freezing water beneath.

Passers-by helped the hopeful skaters get out of the water, an AFP journalist said.

Emergency services rescuers in special protective gear eventually escorted some of them to the shore, as hundreds of curious people looked on around the pond, which is in the centre of the city.

This week’s cold snap briefly raised hopes that a legendary ice skating race could be revived for the first time in nearly a quarter-century. Global warming has meant the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Race) hasn’t been able to be held since 1997.

But Rutte ruled the race out, saying skating must be limited to pairs due to anti-coronavirus restrictions.

“And please don’t fall and have to go to the hospital because it is already so busy there,” he warned.

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Rapid ice retreat during last deglaciation parallels current melt rates

Tromso, Norway (SPX) Feb 12, 2021

10,000 km2 of ice disappeared in a blink of an eye from an ice sheet in the Storfjorden Through offshore Svalbard, a new study shows. This dramatic break off was preceded by quite a rapid melt of 2.5 kilometres of ice a year. This parallels the current melt rates in Antarctica and Greenland and worries the scientists behind the study.

“Our measurements of the ice retreat in Storfjorden Through show that the prevailing conditions to the great break off, match what we see in Antarctica and Greenland … read more

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