Uttarakhand toll hits 64, trekkers among dead
The death toll from floods, landslides and building collapses in Uttarakhand due to intense rain earlier this week reached 64 on Thursday, with at least 11 people still missing, officials said.
Authorities began assessing the damage to personal property, infrastructure and agriculture, as Union home minister Amit Shah carried out aerial surveys of some of the affected regions.
Shah, who reached Dehradun late on Wednesday from Ahmedabad, accompanied chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, governor Lt Gen Gurmit Singh (retd), Union minister of state for defence Ajay Bhatt, Rajya Sabha member Anil Baluni and other senior officials of state and central government.
“During the aerial survey of the affected areas for about two hours, many things came up. At least 64 have died so far while over 11 are still missing. The property loss is, however, yet to be ascertained as it requires ground survey by the official which takes time. It would be done by the officials of home ministry along with the state government officials in a couple of days which will then send a report to the Centre for appropriate assistance,” said Shah while addressing media persons in Dehradun.
At least 13 people, including 10 trekkers, died in separate incidents in the higher reaches of the state after being trapped in snowfall, officials confirmed on Thursday. Officials said 65 people are still trapped at different regions in the upper reaches.
“Over 65 tourists are trapped in higher reaches of Bageshwar — 20 at Kafni and 34 at Dwali glacier besides the 10 at Sunderdhunga. We have sent three rescue teams from the district along with one helicopter and one NDRF team from Dehradun to rescue the tourists, who are mostly from Kolkata,” said Shikha Suyal, district disaster management officer, Bageshwar.
Of the 13 confirmed dead, three were porters working for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) posted at the Indo-China border in Uttarkashi district.
The 10 trekkers who died included eight who went missing while on their way to the Lamkhaga Pass near Harsil in Uttarkashi district, 230km from Dehradun, on October 14. Seven of the eight were from West Bengal while the remaining person was from Delhi.
Devendra Patwal, district disaster management officer, Uttarkashi, said, “The rescue workers compromising SDRF and air force personnel spotted five bodies near Lamkhaga Pass on Thursday morning. The bodies will soon be airlifted from the spot.”
The other group of trekkers who died were in the Bageshwar district. Four from this group were rescued near Sunderdhunga glacier.
Shah said, “Timely warning issued by the Centre to the state government on October 16 helped in saving many lives.”
“The warning issued before 24 hrs of the heavy rain forecast definitely helped in minimising the damage... Fewer lives were lost due to timely actions taken by the state government on the basis of the prior warning,” he said.
He added that “17 teams of NDRF, 60 of SDRF, 15 companies of PAC and over 5,000 personnel of state police are on the ground at present for rescue works in the affected areas”.
“Because of the alertness of these along with central forces — ITBP, army and air force — the Char Dham pilgrims were asked to stay in safe places in the three days of heavy rains. Due to this, not a single pilgrim or tourist lost his/her life. These rescue forces also rescued about 3,500 people and evacuated over 16,000 people to safety as a precautionary measure,” said Shah.
The home minister, after holding a meeting with the officials, also said that the road connectivity has been restored in most places, except few where roads have been completely washed away.
“In those places, new roads are to be constructed by cutting the hills which will take some time. Power supply has also been restored up to 60% in the affected areas. Apart from this, 80% phone connectivity has also been restored,” said Shah.
While assuring the state government of “every possible assistance”, he added that the Centre last month provided “ ₹250 crore from the disaster management department to Uttarakhand for disaster mitigation”.
“Apart from this, the Centre will provide more financial help to the state as soon as it receives the assessment report of property loss in the state by the officials.”
Addressing the media on the steps being taken by the government to manage such disasters in the future, the Union home minister also said the Centre would soon open an institute for research and mitigation of disasters in Uttarakhand.
“A proposal for the same had already been sent by the state to the Centre a few months ago. At least four meetings on the same have happened on it...It will soon be established after which it will not only be beneficial for the Himalayan region but entire country,” said Shah, adding, “Centre is standing with the people of Devbhoomi in this hour of need.”
Earlier on Wednesday, CM Dhami had conducted an aerial and ground survey of the flood-affected areas in the Kumaon division of the state during which he too had assured all possible help to the victims.