Lunak Lake is located on the border of China and Nepal in the Indian state of Sikkim. After heavy rains, the high edges of the lake were washed away. The overflowing water caused additional pressure on a hydroelectric power station downstream, causing its dam to burst.
On Friday morning, Swedish time, the remains of 40 dead were found in Sikkim and in the neighboring state of West Bengal. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes. The flowing waters washed away buildings, bridges and military installations.
Rescue efforts are underway in communities where mudslides have buried buildings and cars. About 100 people are still missing, according to local authorities.
The collapsed dam, Teesta 3, has been the subject of controversy since it was built six years ago. Even then, activists said it was dangerously placed in a situation where increasingly extreme weather could put dam structures in the mountains under increasing pressure.
Four years ago, a government report also determined that Lonac Lake was “particularly vulnerable” to flooding that would put areas downstream at great risk. As the surrounding glaciers melt, the lake’s water levels have risen rapidly in recent years.
The monsoon rains India experienced this year were particularly severe. In August, nearly 50 people died in landslides and flash floods in Himachal Pradesh, also in northern India. In July, more than 100 people died due to record amounts of rain over a two-week period.
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