Toll 207 but more could be buried: Shinde

Toll 207 but more could be buried: Shinde

Toll 207 but more could be buried: Shinde

Some 50,000 people are still stranded in the calamity-hit areas of Uttarakhand and the toll so far is 207 "but more people could be buried in the debris", Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Friday.

More than 34,000 people have been evacuated from the flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand so far, Shinde said Friday.

The home minister, speaking to reporters after a meeting with members of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), said: "We have evacuated more than 34,000 people. Some 49,000-50,000 people are still stranded."

"The figure of the death toll so far is 207, but more people could be buried in the debris," Shinde said.

The home minister said a committee was being formed under the stewardship of former home secretary and NDMA member V.K. Duggal to coordinate the rescue effort.

The home minister said he would visit the flooded area Saturday.

Thousands are said to be missing in Uttarakhand after unprecedented rains and cloudburst led to landslides and flash floods. 

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said more helicopters were being deployed for the rescue operations.

Tewari said the Indian Air Force (IAF) has committed 13 more aircraft for relief and rescue work, taking the total to 43, in the flood-hit state.

"The IAF has committed 13 more aircraft, taking the total to 43. It is also activating landing grounds at Gouchar and Dharasu in Uttarakhand to establish an airbase," Tewari told reporters here after a ministerial meeting on the Uttarakhand disaster.

"IAF plans to operate Advanced Light Helicopter and Cheetah for rescue operations. An MI-17 has landed in Gouchar with food and paratroopers," he added.

Tewari said that the situation is "being monitored at the level of the cabinet secretary and regular meetings are taking place".

He refused to be drawn into a discussion on the causes of the disaster, and said it was not the time to figure out whether this was a man-made disaster.

"Whatever has happened is very sad and unfortunate. Today we should not focus on whether it is a man-made disaster or a natural calamity. We should concentrate on finding ways to rescue those who are stuck," the minister said.

Shinde also said that according to a preliminary report, two cloud bursts in the area caused the disaster.