Rescue and relief teams continued their round-the-clock operations on Wednesday in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh where torrential rains over the weekend wrought havoc in several areas, leaving at least 112 people dead and hundreds more missing.
Uttarakhand: rescue operations underway
Rescue and relief teams continued their round-the-clock operations today in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh where torrential rains over the weekend wrought havoc in several areas, leaving at least 112 people dead and hundreds more missing.
The incessant rains on Saturday and Sunday also caused large-scale devastation of public and private properties.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who made an aerial survey of the worst-affected areas of Uttarakhand along with ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi this afternoon, told newspersons here later that at least 102 people had died in the state.
He also said that the death toll could rise as more details of the extent of damage became available.
Unofficial reports, however, put the death toll at around 130 and the number of missing at 500, but this could not be confirmed independently.
Official sources said more than a thousand heads of cattle had perished in the floods, while 375 houses and buildings had been completely destroyed.
As many as 21 bridges were damaged, while several vehicles and a helicopter were washed away by the swirling waters of the swollen rivers in the state.
As of this morning, more than 62,700 pilgrims and tourists were stranded at different places in the state, especially on the way to the Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri temples.
About 20,000 people had been moved to safer places by the rescue and relief teams, the sources added.
Dr Singh announced an amount of Rs 1000 crore for disaster relief efforts in Uttarakhand, of which Rs 145 crore would be released immediately.
"I have also directed all Central agencies to render all possible assistance in their domain to the state," he said.
Dr Singh said he and Ms Gandhi had seen for themseles the large-scale devastation that had been caused by the rains, floods and landslides in the state.
"Our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost their lives and those who have suffered injury or loss of property in this huge tragedy," he said.
Dr Singh said that assessing the magnitude of the losses, both in terms of lives lost and houses destroyed, or the damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure, was an exercise that would take some more time.
"The priority for the authorities at the moment is to rescue the stranded and provide urgently needed succour to those most in need of it," he said.
"What Chairperson UPA and I saw today was 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. So far, more than 10,000 people have been rescued and are being provided food, clothing and shelter. Many persons still remain stranded. The maximum damage has been in Kedarnath and its vicinity," he said.
The Prime Minister said the immediate need was for rescue and relief operations and the Government would not spare any effort in this regard.
He said the Central and State Governments had deployed all possible resources to deal with the immediate aftermath of the ghastly tragedy. About 5500 jawans and officers of the Army, 3000 men of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and 600 personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are engaged in relief and rescue efforts. Thirteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)have been deployed. The Air Force has deployed 18 helicopters and a C-130 aircraft. Private helicopters have also been engaged by the State Government.
"The Central and State Governments will continue to work in close coordination to ensure that every possible effort is made not only to provide immediate relief to the affected persons but also to help them reconstruct their lives," he said.
Dr Singh said an ex-gratia assistance of Rs. 2 lakh each to the families of those who have lost their lives and Rs. 50,000 each to those who have been injured will be provided from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
"Further, we will also provide from the PMNRF ex-gratia assistance of Rs.1 lakh each to those whose houses have been completely destroyed and Rs. 50,000 each to those whose houses have been damaged," he added.
In Himachal Pradesh, at least ten persons were killed in landslides in the tribal district of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh three days ago.
Once the waters recede and rescue teams are able to access some of the more remote areas, the death toll could rise, the sources said.
More than 5000 Army personnel have been deployed in the relief and rescue efforts in the two states as well as parts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, which also experienced heavy rains and flooding. Indian Air Force helicopters were deployed to evacuate the stranded tourists.
An idea of the devastation caused by the rains, floods and landslides could be had from television pictures of multi-storeyed buildings, houses and bridges crashing, after the earth below them caved in, and being washed away by the swirling waters.
A tall statue of Lord Shiva in Rishikesh was covered upto the neck by the flooded river yesterday.
The Border Roads Organization (BRO) has mobilized more than 3000 of its personnel to try and facilitate restoration of road communication across the different routes.
For the Armed Forces, it is one of the largest such operations they have mounted in several decades.
The Indian Air Force's (IAF) C 130J aircraft was launched today for reconnaissance mission as a part of ‘Operation Rahat’ besides deploying 20 aircraft which include eight Mi 17, 10 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs), one AN-32 and one Avro to carry out constant missions from first light right upto sunset.
The C 130 J on recce mission flew over the flood affected parts of Dehradun, Uttarkashi, Kedarnath and Joshimath to track the critical areas so as to assign priority to disaster relief operations and facilitate further relief efforts.
About 1000 persons were evacuated by the helicopters who carried NDRF teams and dropped 9000 kg of relief material since yesterday with the axis of IAF operations covering Phata, Guptkashi, Gaurikund, Kedarnath in Dehradun and Rampur, Karcham, Rincompeo, Sangla in Himachal Pradesh.
A special task was also carried out by ALH based at Bareilly that rescued about 50 marooned villagers in the foothills using winch equipment. They would be subsequently be positioned at Pithoragarh sector for rescue and food packet drop effort.
Four ALH helicopters of the Sarang Display Team are also deployed for relief operations. One AN-32 aircraft from Agra landed at Jolly Grant air field today carrying 10 NDRF personnel and three tonnes of load consisting of tents and other essential items.
The Army today put in place and commenced execution of ‘Operation Surya Hope" in Badrinath, Hemkund and Kedarnath regions. In the first phase, Army teams carried out reconnaissance of area and air evacuation of isolated pockets along Govindghat-Badrinath road and Ghagriya-Hemkund track today and concentrated on isolated people at Badrinath and Ghagriya.
Focused air evacuation will commence from both the places from June 21, an official press release said.
In the second phase, Army will target Kedarnath region. Reconnaissance of the area has been undertaken today and the troops will be concentrated at Sonprayag and Kedarnath. All isolated people will be concentrated at Sonprayag and Kedarnath on 21 June and air evacuation will commence from 22 June onwards.
In both Badrinath and Kedarnath sectors Army will be inducting soldiers using helicopters who will be stationed at every two kms all along the roads to enable them to contact isolated people. Soldiers would be in place by 20 June, who will provide leadership, succour and medical aid.
Army has so far inducted 12 medical teams and opened an emergency medical helpline. Beside 600 stranded civilians have been given access to Army communications to facilitate them to contact their families.
Nine Army helicopters have been pressed into service and six more helicopters would be operational from tomorrow.
The Army has so far evacuated 1610 civilians in Uttarkashi district and provided shelter, food and medical aid to 1300 people. In the Joshimath sector 3034 civilians have been evacuated to Joshimath so far and provided shelter, food and warm clothing to 1276 people. In Kedarnath region, Army has been able to establish contact and distribute food packets to 250 people at isolated places.
As per latest reports, more than 2800 people are still stranded in Harsil – Gangotri area, and about 5500 in Kedarnath valley, 2500 on Hemkund axis and about 15,000 on Badrinath axis.
Army today also evacuated 1550 people from Govindghat, inserted four more medical teams on Badrinath and Hemkund axis, distributed more than 5000 food packets in Govingghat, Pandukeshwar, isolated locations in Badrinath and Kedarnath regions. Army doctors treated 300 people in Joshimath, 150 in Harsil, and 70 in Rudraprayag. Army teams repaired mini hydel project in Harsil and power is likely to be restored in the area tomorrow.
After clearing eight land slide sites in the last two days, Army cleared the Narendranagar- Uttarkashi road upto 40 kms south of Dharasu. Civilian helicopters today evacuated 300 people from Ghagria on Hemkund axis. All of them were provided assistance by the Army.
Lt Gen Anil Chait, Army Commander, Central Command and a core team of officers are now located in the forward area of Uttarkhand.
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