The “sinking town” of Joshimath in Uttarakhand is on the brink of disaster with cracks in hundreds of buildings. The scale of damage is most visible at the Jaypee power plant, currently the most dangerous building in town.
Because of the extent of destruction at the residential complex of Jaypee, people have been banned from entering the campus.
At the badminton court, the cracks in the walls are so wide that a human hand can slip in, an NDTV team found. The floors are sagging, and the windows are askew in the complex.
The doors are barely hanging off hinges and parts of the roof are crumbling.
Some of the rooms are barely standing. A light nudge can bring the wall crashing down. In the toilet, the floor has caved.
The entire complex has been declared a “red zone” – which indicates most dangerous – and it is widely believed by locals as well as experts that the residential building could collapse any minute.
Residents say for the past few days, ground water has been gushing beneath the surface at a high speed, and it is this water that has weakened the walls and floors. Cracks in buildings are oozing this brown muddy water.
Across the temple town, which is the gateway to popular pilgrimage sites like Badrinath, massive cracks have appeared in buildings and roads after years of unplanned infrastructure building, including hydropower projects.
Many have fled their homes and around 600 houses and hotels are sinking in the town of around 20,000 people.
Thousands of residents are being evacuated to safety. The state government will demolish the most damaged buildings in the next few days.
The town also hosts a major Indian army base and a strategic road to the disputed border with China that has also reportedly developed wide cracks.
The region is prone to earthquakes and has seen disasters in recent years blamed on melting glaciers and incessant construction and drilling in the mountains. In 2021, at least 200 people were killed in flash floods in Joshimath and surrounding areas in a disaster partly blamed on excessive development.