M A I N   N E W S

Toll touches 150, hundreds missing
* PM releases Rs 1,000-cr for Uttarakhand
* Rescue ops stepped up
Tribune News Service & PTI

SAFE, FINALLY: Pilgrims after evacuation from a flood-hit area
SAFE, FINALLY: Pilgrims after evacuation from a flood-hit area

Dehradun/New Delhi, June 19
There was no let-up in the monsoon fury with the death toll due to landslips and flash floods mounting to 150 in Uttarakhand today. The number could zoom up substantially as hundreds of pilgrims were still missing in the hill state.

After an aerial survey of the affected areas, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced Rs 1,000-crore for the state where large-scale devastation has occurred. Skies cleared today enabling stepping up of rescue and relief operations but the efforts were hampered by the vast destruction of the roads.

Uttarakhand Principal Secretary (Home) Om Prakash said the death toll in the state has gone up to 150, but he was not in a position to give the exact estimate since several villages in Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts in the upper reaches were still under water.

Several thousand pilgrims were still stranded in the state as reports came that the Kedarnath temple was intact. The temple complex and the Ram Bada area around it, however, have suffered total destruction. "Very heavy casualties are feared and I cannot give the exact number without a proper survey," said Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna.

The PM, who made the aerial survey with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, described what they saw as "most distressing". "I have also directed Central agencies to render all possible assistance in their domain to the state," he said.

Around 12,000 pilgrims were stranded at Badrinath shrine and 4,050 at Hanuman Chatti. Over 600 devotees were stuck at Pandukeshwar. Several pilgrims on the 18-km stretch between Gaurikund and Kedarnath, when the flash floods struck, are reportedly missing. Rescue parties were finding it difficult to reach affected areas in the absence of roads.

"Fourteen teams comprising 540 NDRF persons have been deployed in Uttarakhand. 62,790 people are stranded in Uttarakhand. 5,000 people have been rescued by the Army," Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.

Rescue helicopters today undertook 100 sorties, mostly in Rudraprayag area, airlifting around 1,000 people. Over 15,000 food packets were dropped in Kedarnath. “Time is running out for us and today the focus of the relief operation was to fly as low as possible so that food packets could be dropped to people in Kedarnath,” said Bhaskaranand Joshi, Secretary Disaster Management (Uttarakhand). As many as 22,392 stranded pilgrims and tourists have been rescued in the last two days.

In Uttarkashi, the Yamunotri -Gangotri National Highway continues to remain blocked. 
Officials said that evacuating people to safer places was their priority as recovery of bodies can be taken up later.

ITBP DG Ajay Chadda, said: “It will be difficult to assess as to when the evacuations would be completed. Search parties are yet to reach all affected areas.”

The IAF today pressed into service specialised C-130-J aircraft that have electro optical infra-red camera for accurately mapping the damage.

The data is being analysed to locate the missing persons and ascertain the extent of damage to roads. The Gaurikund-Kedarnath route is the worst hit, sources told The Tribune.

The IAF will airdrop an ITBP-NDRF team for constructing a makeshift helipad near the Kedarnath shrine for evacuation. The Army increased its troop strength in the flood-hit areas. At three places, Army engineers have carved out fresh tracks.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been told to focus on Uttarakhand. Rescue operations were also on in Kinnaur district of Himachal.

Kedarnath: temple OFF-limits for 1 year

The famous Kedarnath Temple in rain-ravaged Uttarakhand is safe, but will remain out of bounds for at least one year, CM Vijay Bahuguna said.

“I don’t think we can resume the Kedarnath Yatra for a year...18 km of road is damaged and there is eight to ten feet of debris in the area.”

Delhi: Raging Yamuna gives the jitters

Low-lying areas along the Yamuna in New Delhi were flooded on Wednesday as its water level inched closer to breaching the 207.49-metre mark, the highest ever recorded, prompting the authorities to evacuate over 5,000 persons even as a man drowned in the river.





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