Earthquake adds to scare in Uttarakhand

Minor tremor has little impact, but experts fear possibility of fresh landslides; bad weather hampers rescue operations, 2,400 still stranded

Published: 28th June 2013 08:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th June 2013 08:53 AM   |  A+A-

After bearing the brunt of the devastating June 16 flashfloods and landslides, Uttarakhand has now been hit by an earthquake, though the impact of the tremors was minimal. Tremors measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale were reported from rain-ravaged Pithoragarh district of the State on Thursday. The quake was recorded at 11.50 am by the India Meteorological Department. Met officials said the depth of the quake was at 4 km. “The epicentre of the quake was located at 30.1 degrees north on the latitude and 80.4 degrees east on the longitude,” Met officials said.

Dr V P Dimri, former Director of National Geophysical Research Institute, said Uttarakhand falls under the high-risk seismic zone and several areas of Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Pithoragarh are staring at further devastation.

“Despite living in a high-risk zone we do not follow building codes which is very dangerous. It will have a cascading effect in the coming days and we are likely to witness more landslides in the State,” Dimri said, adding that the State government must use the Lidar technique to study vulnerable areas and alert the locals in advance.

Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister B C Khanduri said the State government should deploy the advance warning system so that people could be evacuated in time. “It is time the Centre created a separate ministry for the Himalayan region to specify the parameters required for striking a balance between the region’s fragile ecology and development,” Khanduri said.

Meanwhile, bad weather hampered the air evacuation of stranded pilgrims on Thursday. State officials said an estimated 2,400 pilgrims are still stranded in the Badrinath axis. About 700 pilgrims were airlifted from Harsil, while 500 were evacuated from Badrinath by road. They had to trek about 13 km in harsh terrain as most of the choppers deployed for the rescue operation remained  grounded. They said all pilgrims stuck at Harsil were evacuated and only 200 local residents need to be rescued. “As many as 500 pilgrims were airlifted from Gangotri and 500 others were evacuated by road. About 167 people were also airlifted from Pithoragarh district. By Thursday evening, areas like Matli, Bhatwari and Maneri have been fully evacuated,” they said.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in a statement said so far 1,04,095 people have been evacuated from different places across the State by road and air.

The NDMA said about 1,520 roads were destroyed in the floods and authorities were assessing the damage to the infrastructure.

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