Glacier Water Threatens to Flood French Alps Valley

French officials have begun pumping millions of gallons of water as part of a multi-million dollar emergency operation.

French authorities are starting an emergency operation on Tuesday to drain a huge water pocket under the Tête-Rousse glacier in the French Alps that threatens to burst and unleash devastating flash floods in a tourist hotspot, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The $2 million operation, which is expected to run until October, will carefully pump and channel millions of gallons of water into the St. Gervais valley below. If the water pocket explodes, it would submerge the valley within 15 minutes, endangering the lives of more than 3,000 people in the area, local authorities have said. Meanwhile residents have been informed about the measures and briefed on an evacuation plan.

The reservoir of water, roughly the volume of 20 Olympic-size pools, was discovered by researchers at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the largest fundamental science agency in Europe, during routine checks of the glacier last month. Experts say that the pocket probably formed as unusually cold temperatures froze the water’s escape routes within the glacier. Normally, glacier water drains naturally, trickling away through the channels.

According to the Daily Telegraph, global warming might also have contributed to the thinning of the snow-cover that prevents the glacier’s channels from freezing up.

Local authorities are fearing a repeat of the catastrophic flood in July 1892, when an estimated 17.6 million gallons of water mixed with mud, rocks and trees killed at least 175 people in the valley.

Sources: the Daily Telegraph, Reuters, the Daily Mail

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