The Uttarakhand government is in a fix. It does not know whom to hand over compensation for the deaths in the landslides in Pithoragarh district on Saturday.
There’s no one to come forward and claim the money. With no survivors of the devastation around, the administration is also unable to get bodies of those killed in the landslide identified.
During a visit to the area in Pithoragarh on Saturday — around 609 km east of Dehradun — Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, announced a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh for each of the affected families. While 22 bodies were recovered till Sunday evening, none of these could be identified as no survivors of the three ill-fated villages — Laa, Jhetlan and Maati — could be found.
“If in Laa 11 of the 12 families are dead, the scene at Jhetlan or Maati is no different. We’re don’t know how to distribute compensation to the next of kin. We’re trying to contact victims’ relatives so they can identify the bodies,” divisional commissioner of Kumaon region S. Raju told Hindustan Times. He also said that retrieving all the bodies from under the debris would be impossible. “A large number of bodies seem to have been swept away into a nearby rivulet, which flows adjacent to the affected villages,” he said.
The death toll for calamity, triggered by cloudburst and torrents of rain, was likely to be higher than the earlier estimate of 43, state parliamentary affairs minister Prakash Pant told HT on Sunday.
“Considering some people from nearby areas could also have been present in these villages, death toll is likely to go up,” he said. Admitting that search-and-rescue operation was taking time, Pant pointed out that the devastation was spread out and the terrain was difficult to access.
A joint team of Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Provincial Armed Constabulary and the state police began rescue operations on Saturday evening, recovering 19 bodies by the evening and two more till Sunday afternoon, informed the district magistrate of Pithoragarh, Narain Singh Negi.