Rs 1,000 crore for flood-hit Uttarakhand

Top priority: Kedarnath shrine will remain out of bounds for at least one year

Rs 1,000 crore for flood-hit Uttarakhand

The Centre on Wednesday said its priority is to rescue thousands of people stranded in the flood-devastated parts of Uttarakhand, even as Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said the Kedarnath shrine will remain out of bounds for the public for at least one year.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who conducted an aerial survey of the rain-ravaged state along with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, announced Rs 1,000 crore for relief initiatives.

Describing the situation as “distressing,” the prime minister said he has directed all central agencies to render every possible assistance to the state.

Over 10,000 personnel of the armed forces, 22 helicopters and a transport plane of the Air Force have been deployed for relief and rescue operations.

“What the UPA chairperson and I saw today was the most distressing. While the most recent estimates put the death toll at 102, it is feared that loss of lives could eventually be much higher,” Singh told reporters here.

He said more than 10,000 people have been rescued and provided food, clothing and shelter. “Many people still remain stranded. The maximum damage has been in Kedarnath and its vicinity,” he said.

The prime minister announced an ex-gratia assistance of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each to the injured. Besides, an ex-gratia assistance of Rs 1 lakh each would be provided to the people whose houses have been completely destroyed and Rs 50,000 each to the people whose houses have been damaged.

Singh said it will take some more time to assess the magnitude of the losses, both in terms of lives lost and houses destroyed, or damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure.  He said about 5,500 jawans and officers of the Army, 3,000 men of the Border Roads Organisation and 600 ITBP personnel were engaged in the relief and rescue operations. Thirteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force have also been deployed. Bahuguna told reporters here that the Kedarnath shrine was safe but “under a lot of slush.” It would take at least one year to clear debris around the shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located in the Himalayas at a height of 3,584 metres near the Chorabari glacier, the Kedarnath temple is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims from across the world.

Over 60,000 people are reportedly stranded. Many of them have not been able to establish communication with their families.

Earlier in the day, the Congress core committee meeting attended by Singh and Gandhi held a detailed discussion and asked the state, ruled by the Congress, to intensify relief operation.

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