M A I N   N E W S

Himalayan TSUNAMI
As toll estimates mount, states asked to verify their missing
CM Bahuguna says difficult to ascertain exact number of dead
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, June 30
Amid controversy over the exact number of people dead or washed away in the worst natural disaster in Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna today said the exact figures may never be known as the estimates of casualties vary from several hundred to several thousands.

The Bahuguna government has also asked states to verify the number of their missing persons in Uttarakhand.

“We will never know the exact number of those dead and the number of people who have been buried or washed away,” the CM said a day after state Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal caused a flutter with his claim of the death toll having crossed 10,000. The Chief Minister had earlier stated the death toll may cross the 1,000-mark.

Today, state Health Minister Surinder Singh Negi did not discount Kunjwal’s claim, saying it was an “estimate” as many bodies were still buried under mounds of debris in the Kedarnath valley area.

Kunjwal had told reporters that during his earlier tour of the flood-devastated areas of the state he had put the death toll at 5,000-6,000. “But after hearing accounts of the people coming down from the mountains and that of people calling me up and seeing the piles of bodies, I feel the toll could be well over 10,000.” The statement by Kunjwal, a staunch supporter of Union Minister Harish Rawat, is seen as intra-party politics between the Bahuguna and Rawat camps. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has denied the death toll claimed by Kunjwal. Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde also refuted Kunjwal’s claim.

Bahuguna, who held a high-level meeting of senior officials to review the prevailing situation, later said that Chief Secretaries of all the states have been asked to verify the number of missing persons who were in Uttarakhand when disaster struck and have not returned. The family members of such missing persons should lodge a complaint with their respective state authorities, he said.

“After verification by respective state government within one month, we would be starting the process of giving compensation to the missing. Similarly, for missing persons belonging to Uttarakhand, the process would be expedited to provide compensation to the affected families,” he said.

On the cremation of the dead at Kedarnath and Rambara, Bahuguna said the state police have begun the process. A 200-strong team comprising police, health and veterinary officials who would be taking DNA samples of the dead before cremating them is being sent to expedite the process. Bahuguna said several villages in the state were still cut off and would be supplied with essentials by helicopters. “Each District Magistrate has been asked to make helipads for three to five such marooned villages so that helicopters could land there,” he said.

He said such villages would be provided one month’s free rations and subsidised kerosene. He said a total of 968 water supplying schemes were damaged but except 184 schemes, all other have been repaired.

He said 496 villages were still without electricity and 200 solar lamps have been provided in Uttarkashi district. He said authorities have been given a deadline to repair all drinking water schemes by July 15 and reconnect all damaged roads by July 31.

He said there was no epidemic in the state and health authorities from the Centre as well as the state were working in affected areas. 

Badrinath: 200 rescued, 500 still there

* Over 200 pilgrims were taken to safety from Badrinath on Sunday in five choppers and the government said only 500 more remained there with adequate food and medical care

* A 200-member team including the police and health, animal husbandry and sanitation experts is being sent to Kedarnath and Rambada to extricate the bodies and expedite the cremations

* Disposal of numerous bodies in affected areas and transportation of relief material to locals in flooded villages poses a fresh challenge to authorities





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