Rescue, relief efforts intensified in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand floods: Thousands stranded
Amid fears that the death toll could rise dramatically, rescue and relief teams intensifed their round-the-clock efforts today in the flood-ravaged areas of Uttarakhand, where torrential rains over the weekend claimed more than a hundred lives and caused widespread destruction of public and private properties.
Official sources said nine of the 13 districts in Uttarakhand were affected by the disaster, which followed incessant rains last Saturday and Sunday.
According to official figures put out by the Uttarakhand government, 71 people are known to have died in the floods and landslides, whie 53 suffered injuries and 23 were officially listed as missing.
More than 1150 heads of cattle perished in the tragedy, while 366 houses and buildings were completely destroyed and 272 were partially damaged. As many as 21 bridges were damaged.
As of this morning, more than 62,000 pilgrims and tourists were stranded at various places, especially on the way to pilgrimage destinations of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
The sources said more than 22,300 people were shifted to safer places in the worst-affected areas such as Kedarnath, Chamoli, Uttrakashi, Tehri and Pithoragarh.
Apart from the Army and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the search, rescue and relief operations are being carried out by para-military forces such as the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) as well as various state government agencies.
Official sources here said that 22 helicopters of the Army, Air Force and civil organisations had been pressed into rescue and relief operations.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs said there was no shortage of food material. However, Department of Food & Public distribution and Ministry of Petroleum were requested on June 18 to consider the additional demand of the state government for 100 MT of rice and 60 KL of kerosene oil at BPL rates.
Essential commodities including food packets are being air dropped in the affected areas.
A press release from the Home Ministry said 13 teams of NDRF, consisting of 422 personnel, along with the necessary equipment, had been deployed for assisting the state government in the search and rescue operations.
Five of these teams (174 personnel) are deployed in Rudraprayag district, three teams (89 personnel) in Haridwar, one team each in Guptkashi, Lakshar, Gaurikund, Dehradun and Jolly Grant airport.
Union Home Secretary R K Singh is holding daily meetings to review the situation and the relief and rescue measures being undertaken.
Senior officers of the Home Ministry are in constant touch with concerned senior officers of the Government of Uttarakhand for extending the required support and assistance, the release said.
As per Indian Metrological Department (IMD), the cumulative rainfall in Uttarakhand is reported to be 385.1 mm against normal rainfall of 71.3 mm, which is 440% excess  during the period from June 1-18.
A high-level Central team headed by Union Home Secretary R K Singh visited the affected areas yesterday and reviewed the tasks to be performed by Central agencies and State government officials for speedy rescue and relief of stranded persons.
One team of the NDRF and another of the ITBP have been placed at Kedarnath and Gaurigaon to assist in the evacuation from those places. Evacuation operations were carried out yesterday till the weather deteriorated.
One team of ITBP operated between Govindghat and Joshimath and evacuated pilgrims stuck there.
The Government has decided to deploy helicopters at Ghangharia to evacuate stranded pilgrims.
The ITBP will launch teams from Pithoragarh to  all the vallies in the district to see if the villagers or stranded persons require any assistance.
In Himachal Pradesh, eleven lives were lost in the heavy rains and landslides in Kinnaur district.
Meanwhile, in Delhi, the river Yamuna is flowing in "high flood" situation. The water level was at 207 m yesterday afternoon with a rising trend, 2.17 m above its danger level of 204.83 m and 0.49 m below its previous high flood level of 207.49 m on September 6, 1978.
The Delhi Government has evacuated about 5000 persons from low-lying areas and shifted the to safer places. One team of the NDRF has been deployed at the Delhi Boat Club here for rescue and relief operations.
A spokesman for the Army said that it had reached out to over 8000 people on all four different axes: Rishikesh – Uttarkashi – Harsil – Gangotri axis; Rudraprayag – Kedarnath axis, Joshimath – Badrinath axis and Dharchhula – Tawaghat axis in Pithoragarh district.
The Army today opened the road upto Uttarkashi after clearing 16 landslides. Road has also been opened upto Sonprayag on Kedarnath axis after successful launch of bridge across Vasuki Ganga between Mundkatiya and Sonprayag.  About 2500 stranded people were evacuated from Sonprayag due to this newly opened road.
A press release from the Army said Kedarnath was totally cut off, especially the stretch between Gourikund and Sonprayag. Troops skilled in mountain rescue operations including paratroopers heli-dropped with specialized equipment have been inducted to reach out and link up with people stranded in isolated areas along Kedarnath and Badrinath axis.
The Army has so far rescued more than 11,000 people, mainly from Govindghat and Harsil. About 10,000 people are also being provided food  and medical assistance.
On receiving information that 50 to 60 people were stranded and isolated on Pindari Glacier and 12 on Sunder Dunga Glacier in Kumaon region, an Army column led by two officers and 77 soldiers reached Kapkot in Bageshwar district this morning.  The column is currently moving by foot towards Gumla and is expected to reach both the glaciers and is likely to link up with people by tomorrow, the release said.
The Army also established contact with and rescued 11 members and 43 porters of a mountaineering expedition from Arva Tal on Gangotri – Mana axis.  Expedition members have now been brought safely to Ghastoli and will be relocated to Badrinath after medical aid is rendered, the release said.
Communication nodes  have been established at Gaucher, Harsil, Joshimath and Rudraprayag to enable people to contact their families. Thirty satellite phones have so far been inducted,  and 20 more are likely to be inducted for use by stranded piligrims. 
The Army is presently carrying out reconnaissance to examine the feasibility of making a larger helipad at Gagaria on Hemkund Sahib axis so that large number of people can be evacuated using MI-17 helicopter.  Efforts are presently underway to repair the bridge over Alaknanda between Govindghat and Ghagria on Hemkund Sahib road.
Six Army columns are also currently deployed for rescue and relief operations in Pilibhit, Muzaffarnagar, Laksar and Amroha in Uttar Pradesh.  Two other columns have since returned from Saharanpur and Bijnor districts after evacuating 98 people and construction of anti-flood bund.  As many as 114 people have been evacuated so far from Pilibhit district.

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