Multi-agency rescue work on in U'khand
Toll likely to mount; over 50,000 still stranded
A mammoth multi-agency rescue and relief operations were put in place on Thursday in the flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, evacuating people from the worst-affected Kedarnath town and other areas, even as the toll is feared to be in several hundreds with an equal number missing.
Over 50,000 people were still said to be stranded in various parts of the state that was hit by cloudburst and floods in the upper reaches that left several hundreds of homes, rest houses and buildings in ruins and thousands of people missing.
The official toll still stood at 150 but Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has said the casualties may run into several hundreds which will be known only when areas become accessible and water recedes.
The state government’s disaster mitigation and management centre in the morning said the casualties could run into thousands with about 90 “dharamshalas” (rest houses for pilgrims) swept away in the flash floods. Stepping up relief and rescue operations, the Defence Ministry has deployed more than 45 Army and Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters along with more than 10,000 troops in the state.
The IAF has deployed 20 Mi-17s and 16 advanced light helicopters in the state where they have evacuated over 1,500 people. The Army has also deployed over 8,000 of its troops along with over 3,000 personnel of the Border Roads Organisation, Defence Ministry officials said in Delhi. In the wake of poor connectivity and communication, relatives of several pilgrims who came from outside the state were struggling to find the whereabouts of their dear ones.
The upper reaches of the state lay mute witness to the death and devastation caused by nature’s fury due to Saturday’s cloudburst and landslides and a complete estimate of which was still not available. Uttarakhand Principal Secretary (Home) Om Prakash told reporters at Dehradun that 1,000 people have been evacuated from different places. There are still around 200 people in and around the Kedarnath valley, who will be evacuated on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Centre stepped up rescue by pressing more helicopters into service to intensify rescue operations in the flood-hit areas. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who reviewed the situation from New Delhi, said 22 helicopters had been used for evacuation and they had rescued 22,392 people.
“But 22 helicopters are not enough. We have requested the Defence Ministry to deploy more helicopters to expedite rescue operations. The Defence Ministry agreed to our request and hopefully the additional choppers would be deployed soon,” he told reporters. According to the Home Ministry, 62,122 people are still stranded in remote locations. Shinde said a high-level meeting was convened for Friday to take stock of the relief and rescue operations. Representatives from the Ministries of Home, Defence and Food the National Disaster Management Authority and other stake holders will attend the meeting.
The latest report sent to the Home Ministry summarising progress of rescue and relief operations revealed 13 teams of the National Disaster Response Force consisting of 422 personnel and 3,000 personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police , besides hundreds of Army personnel are engaged in rescue efforts.
The Indian Meteorological Department has said the cumulative rainfall at Uttarakhand is reported at 385.1 mm actual against the normal rainfall of 71.3 mm.