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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rain toll rises to 131, over 73,000 pilgrims stranded Casualties In Thousands, Claims VHP


Dehradun/Shimla: Torrential rains continued to pour in bad news from north India on Tuesday, with flash floods, cloudbursts and landslips claiming 69 more lives and taking the official death toll to 131, making for the most tragic tidings of monsoon in recent years. More than 73,000 pilgrims bound for the Himalayan shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri remained
stranded in Uttarakhand and about 1,700 tourists were stuck in Himachal Pradesh.
    The rains left 102 people dead in Uttarakhand, almost as many injured, and smashed hundreds of houses. The remaining deaths were reported from Himachal Pradesh.

    Based on reports from volunteers on the pilgrim route, the VHP said the toll could be in thousands. Its statement said bodies were strewn around the Kedarnath temple and Ga
uri Kund, from where the trek to Kedarnath commences, had been washed away.
    The worst-hit was Rudraprayag where 20 people drowned and 73 buildings, in
cluding 40 hotels along the banks of Alaknanda, were swept away by the swirling waters of the ice-cold river.
69 lives lost on Tuesday due to flash floods, cloudbursts, landslips
Over 27,000
stuck in Chamoli, 25,000 in Rudraprayag, about 10,000 in Uttarkashi

102 killed so far in Uttarakhand, hundreds of houses reported smashed
Over 500
people reported missing in Kedarnath alone
Himachal CM taken to safety
    Police said seven members of a family, including two minors, died after the hotel they were staying was consumed by the river.
    Char Dham pilgrims, thousands of them from Delhi and surrounding areas, are still stranded due to extensive damage to roads in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi. Disaster management authorities said more than 27,000 devotees are stuck in Chamoli; 25,000-odd in Rudraprayag; and close to 10,000 in Uttarkashi. Around 10,000 people stuck are travelers and other tourists.
    While security forces were pressed in rescue operations, even some of them have fallen victim to the flood's ferocity. Bodies of three Indo-Tibetan Border Police jawans and two police constables were recovered from the debris at Kedarnath, official sources said. Two IAF helicopters and two private choppers flew sorties in Chamoli district, which is badly hit. Private choppers have been dropping food supplies to people stuck in Pulna and Bundar villages en route to Hemkunt Sahib.
    Two IAF copters ferried hundreds of pilgrims from Kedarnath to Fata helipad
in Rudraprayag. "Chopper services were launched on a war footing with no fresh spell of rain in the morning at most places in Uttarakhand," said SDM, Rudraprayag, L N Mishra.
    A let-up in the rain and a decrease in the water level of the Ganga and its tributaries allowed rescue efforts to pick up pace in flood- and landslidehit areas of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. More than a dozen helicopters were deployed in the two states for relief and rescue operations.
    In Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh was evacuated from Kinnaur district, where he was cut off for nearly 60 hours due to rain
triggered landslides.
    Although three MI-17 helicopters, two of the Indian Army and one of the state government, were deployed, a large number of tourists were trapped in different parts of the district where all roads were blocked following landslides. PWD engineer Pradeep Chauhan said it would take three to four days to clear the roads.
    In UP, an alert was issued after water levels in most rivers touched the danger mark. Three people died in Maharajganj district due to the heavy rain that lashed most parts of the state during the last 24 hours. In Saharanpur, the Army was called in to assist in re
lief and rescue operations. Reports of receding water levels in some major rivers by the evening, however, came as a major relief to the authorities who said the situation would be brought under control by Wednesday afternoon. The Delhi-Palia section of the National Highway near Lakhimpur had to be closed down after it was submerged.
    In Haryana, the water level in the Yamuna started receding but many villages in Yamunanagar and Karnal districts continued to remain water-logged. Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot announced a financial aid of Rs 2 crore to Uttarakhand. According to government sources, at least 800 people from the state were stuck in various districts in Uttarakhand.
    The West Bengal government offered assistance. "I have spoken to the Uttarakhand CM," said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata. "I have requested him to rescue the tourists and pilgrims from Bengal, stuck mainly in Kedarnath. We are making arrangements for some choppers to airlift them. We have also requested the Uttarakhand government to send the tourists to Delhi, from where we will take care of these people."

A view of the holy town of Kedarnath from a helicopter after it was devastated by floods


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