About 200 newlywed couples are missing in the monstrous flashfloods that roared through Uttarakhand on June 16, claiming at least 830 lives, with 3,000 missing, feared dead and thousands of pilgrims injured.
“Majority of the complaints regarding missing couples were received from Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai, Bangalore, UP and Chhattisgarh. Combing operations are still going on at upper reaches to trace survivors,” State officials added.
Officials said given the size of the three-worst affected districts and the wide area of flashflood impact, searching for and rescuing survivors may take up to two-three weeks. “It will be extremely challenging as many areas are still inaccessible and will require both Uttarakhand State police and Army resources,” they said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Telecom with the help of private cellular operators in the State has launched a helpline service wherein family members can seek details of missing persons’ last location by providing the cell number to track their movement at the time of the disaster. The initiative will help in establishing the last visited location by accessing the tower details.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said State and Central machinery will now focus on tracing those missing and rescue people trapped under the debris.
“It’s still not known how many people continue to be trapped under the debris following the flashfloods. Rescue operations to evacuate all those still stranded will be intensified. The Air Force will deploy more MI-17 helicopters to evacuate all people on a war footing. The helicopter fleet will be stationed in Uttarakhand for 15 more days,” Shinde said.
The State government said about 800 persons were evacuated from Badrinath on Friday and the rest will be rescued by Saturday evening.
About 1,000 persons, including pilgrims, are still stuck in Pithoragarh as bad weather hampered rescue operations on Friday. So far 1,04,895 persons have been evacuated from different places across the State by road and air.
The National Disaster Management Authority said that in order to remove debris and to clean the vicinity of the Kedarnath temple earthmovers would be airlifted soon.
NDMA Vice Chairman M Shashidhar Reddy said 739 affected villages are still cut-off from the rest of State. “Out of the total 22,000 villages in the State, 2,375 have been affected. Of them, 1,636 have been connected so far. while the rest are yet to be connected,” Reddy said.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has asked Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna to submit a separate proposal to build the damaged roads and houses under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and Indira Avas Yojna respectively. Jairam said a special package will be given to the State under the PMGSY, although it doesn’t come under the Central scheme. It has already cleared `336 crore to repair 82 roads with the total length of 675 km and 27 bridges.