Uttarakhand rain toll rises to 150; PM announces Rs 1,000 crore relief
The terrible magnitude of nature's fury in Uttarakhand unfolded today as the death toll rose to 150 with fears that it may go up substantially as large parts remained under water while hundreds of houses and buildings lay in ruins.
After an aerial survey of the affected areas, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a Rs 1,000 crore aid to 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 caused by landslips and flash floods that damaged hundreds of houses, buildings, hotels and government guest houses.
Several thousand pilgrims from across the country are still stranded in the state as reports came that the Kedarnath temple, one of the four holy dhams, was intact but the temple complex and the Rambada area around it have suffered total destruction.
"Very heavy casualties are feared and I cannot give the exact number without a proper survey," said Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna who described the flood ravage as unprecedented caused by a "Himalayan tsunami".
Singh and Congress President made an aerial survey of the affected areas and described what they saw as "most distressing".
He announced Rs 1,000 crore aid for the state for disaster relief of which Rs 145 crore is being released immediately.
"I have also directed all Central agencies to render all possible assistance in their domain to the state," he told reporters on his return.
The Prime Minister said it is feared that the 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.
Bahuguna, who described the scale of the devastation as unimaginable, said it would take one year for normal yatra to Kedarnath to be restored.
The first priority is to rescue the stranded people especially those on pilgrimage from various parts of the country, distribution of medicines and rehabilitation and compensation for the affected, he said.
Uttarakhand Principal Secretary (Home) Om Prakash said the death toll in the state has gone up to 150 but 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.
The state and Central governments have deployed all possible resources to deal with the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.
About 5,500 jawans and officers of the army, 3,000 men of the Border Roads Organisation and 600 ITBP personnel are engaged in relief and rescue efforts.
Thirteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been put into work. The Air Force has deployed 18 helicopters and C130 aircraft. Private helicopters are also being engaged by the state government.