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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

U’khand toll may be in thousands CM Bahuguna Calls It ‘Himalayan Tsunami’; Char Dham Pilgrimage Halted For A Year 70,000 Still Missing, 60 Villages Swept Away, PM Grants 1,000 Crore

Dehradun: As flood waters ebbed and rain fury eased on Wednesday, snatches of Uttarakhand's worst natural disaster began to emerge. The death toll, officially placed at 150 on the basis of a body count, could be frighteningly higher. The estimates were running into thousands. Even chief minister Vijay Bahuguna who described the calamity as a "Himalayan tsunami", said, "Very heavy casualties are feared."
    State home secretary Om Prakash said, "The toll could go much higher as the process of recovery of bodies has not yet started in many places that are marooned." What's raising the fears is the fact that over 70,000 are still missing, and giv
en that rescuers haven't yet been able to reach many ravaged towns what they will discover there is anyone's guess.
    Many of those marooned are pilgrims to the Char Dhams—Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. According to Char Dham Yatri Sangathan convener Varinder Arora, around 25,000 pilgrims remain trapped in Damta alone since Sunday. Damta is 70km from Yamunotri.
    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi flew over the water-ravaged towns and mud-caked villages. The PM has announced a relief package of Rs 1,000 crore. He said what they had seen was horrifying.

    The epicentre of the disaster appeared to be Kedarnath, where the 8th century temple of Lord Shiva was covered under 6 feet of sludge, its surroundings and the 18-km trek to the 3,581-metre sacred spot savaged by landslides and gushing waters. More than 60 villages had been flattened in the vicinity and 90 dharamshalas completely destroyed.

In the aftermath of the severe destruction in Uttarakhand, TOI takes stock of the rescue operations and also examines how the tragedy could have been averted. P 12 

Environmentalists, experts and activists say unplanned development and rampant felling of forests responsible for the scale of disaster
    Series of dams has allegedly upset ecological cycle and hill slope stability
    Forest cover depletion has loosened soil, leading to frequent landslides
    No urban planning led to houses coming up in danger areas in Rudraprayag, Joshimath, Chamoli etc
    Three yrs ago, while auditing hydel projects in Uttarakhand, CAG had warned about severe ecological hazards. Its report ignored
12k stranded in and around Badrinath
    There were no reliable estimates on the number of pilgrims but some accounts said bodies were strewn in and around the Shiva temple complex and 15,000 people were still waiting to be rescued, of them
12,000 in the temple. The heavy downpours
pushed the Mandakini river beyond its banks, flooding over 200 villages along the 18-km trek to the shrine.
    "I saw over 60 bodies flowing in the flash floods and about 200 people whom I personally kn
ow are missing," said Sohan Singh Negi of Kedarnath village, recounting Sunday night's events. He estimated that 25,000 people were still trapped in areas where Army rescuers were yet to reach.
    According to Rakesh Tiwari, assistant DM and his subordinate Rameshwar Dimari, leading the rescue teams on the ground, prominent dharamshalas swept away included the Bharat Se
wa Ashram and Kali Kamli.
    "More than 1,000 people are still missing from Kedarnath town," said Garhwal divisional commissioner Suvardhan. He said casualties from nearby towns like Guptkashi, Kund and Agastya Muni had not even started to be counted. There was also no

news of the 100 priests at the temple and over 1,000 traders at Ram Bada town.
    The devastation spread well beyond Kedarnath to another of the holy shrines on the Char Dham pilgrimage. More than 12,000 pilgrims and villagers were stranded in and around Badrinath. IAF helicopters were ferrying people from there to Gaurikund, where relief camps had been set up.


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