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Dangerous glacial lake near Mount Everest drained to safe level

Published 01/11/2016

The lake is considered one of the most likely to burst its banks
The lake is considered one of the most likely to burst its banks

Soldiers and local villagers have finished draining a glacial lake just south of Mount Everest, helping to prevent an outburst that could have flooded several villages.

Lt Col Bharat Lal Shrestha, who led the team of soldiers during the six-month project, said they were able to lower Imja Lake's water level by 11ft, averting the immediate risk of flooding.

Imja, at an altitude of 16,400ft, is considered one of the most likely glacial lakes to burst its banks because it keeps rising every year as a result of melting snow and ice from the Himalayan mountains.

Forty soldiers working with around 100 villagers dug through boulders and rocks to build an outlet, draining as much as 141 million cubic feet of water from the lake.

Soldiers, who camped out in tents and worked through the rainy season, battled high-altitude sickness, freezing temperatures, snow and strong winds.

Lt Col Shrestha said: "It was physically tiring working in an area where there is about half the oxygen available, but we were able to complete the task and ensure the villagers and visitors are safe."

The team was sent after years of warnings from environment groups that the glacial lake, which is up to 500ft deep, could burst at any time, causing flash floods which could sweep many villages.

A devastating earthquake which struck Nepal in April 2015 is believed to have made the lake even more unstable.

Lt Col Shrestha said at least five villages right beneath the lake with a total population of about 8,000 people would have been in danger as a result.

Thousands of western and Nepalese tourists also visit the area during the autumn and spring to trek the trails to the Mount Everest base camp.

AP

Press Association

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