The magnitude of the human tragedy due to flash floods in the Himalayan provinces dawned on the Centre on Thursday as Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh governments sent in reports that put several hundred, mostly pilgrims, among those washed away.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security on Thursday morning to review the rescue and relief work, appealed to the people of the country to “stand with our distressed fellow countrymen” in their hour of crisis.
While reports reaching here from Uttarakhand suggested that several thousands of pilgrims, who had been staying in rest houses in the State’s religious towns of Rudraprayag, Kedarnath, Joshimath and others were washed away in the floods caused by the week-long rainfall, over 62,000 pilgrims were still stranded all over the State waiting for rescue teams to reach them.
The Uttarakhand government, in its report to the Union Home Ministry, said 22 helicopters belonging to the Army, Air Force, and the civilian government has been pressed into service to reach food, medical kits and relief workers to the worst-hit locations of the State.
It also noted that nine of its districts were affected by the flash floods, with over 360 houses fully damaged and 270 others partially damaged. The State’s 21 bridges had collapsed and roads washed away, cutting off the remote pilgrimage centres from other parts of the country.
The State government has sought an additional 100 metric tonnes of rice and 60 kilolitres of kerosene at below poverty line rates to meet the needs of the disaster-hit people, though there is no shortage of food. These requests have been sent to the Department of Food and Public Distribution and Ministry of Petroleum, the Central government said.