Manmohan promises Rs. 1,000 crore for disaster mitigation

Thousands of people have been rescued but the inability of rescue teams to navigate disaster-struck areas has left over 60,000 people stranded in Uttarakhand.

According to the State Disaster Mitigation Centre, while 22,392 pilgrims have been safely moved to camps, the death toll has reached 71, with 53 persons injured and 23 missing.

Though officials say 20 people have died in Kedarnath, according to survivors the death toll is much higher.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has agreed to give Rs. 1,000 crore to the State for disaster mitigation and announced Rs.2 lakh for the families of the dead and Rs. 50,000 for the injured.Kalyan Singh from Rajasthan’s Karauli district, who lost his wife at Kedarnath, recounted that on Monday the height of the swollen river could be that of a double-storey building. He was rescued on Tuesday evening.

Another survivor said people stranded on hilltops in Kedarnath had not received any food or water since Monday morning.

It will take one year to clear the slush: CM

“Kedarnath shrine is safe but it is under a lot of slush,” said Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, adding it would require at least one year to clear the slush. “The shrine will remain out of bounds for pilgrims for one year,” the Chief Minister said. Located in the Himalayas at a height of 3584 metres near the Chorabari glacier, the temple is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims from all over the world.

Sources told The Hindu that people have been starving for four days now at Gaurikund and Munkatia, which is about 3 km from Gaurikund. Helicopters are airdropping the food aimlessly and people suffering from diabetes and heart problems do not have access to healthcare services. The weather has improved as rains have stopped at many places.

Raj Kishore Trivedi, a shopkeeper from Kedarnath, was admitted to the Doon Hospital in Dehradun with a broken leg on Tuesday evening. His shop was washed away early Monday morning in an avalanche of debris and water from a glacier that collapsed heaping destruction on the Kedarnath temple and the surrounding valley.

Indresh Mekhuri from Chamoli district, who visited Govindghat on Wednesday, told The Hindu: “Flash floods have destroyed more than half the market area at Govindghat. For two days the stranded pilgrims there were without food. Only today they ate after digging and drying some ration from the debris-laden gurdwara.”

According to him, hundreds of pilgrims are stranded at Govindghat and around 200 pilgrims on the other side of the river have not been rescued as a bridge has collapsed.

‘This was inevitable’

Uttarkashi residents complained that the destruction was inevitable as in almost 11 months since the last flash floods in August 2012, the government had not completed the pending construction work.

Reacting to this, Uttarakhand Disaster Management and Mitigation Centre Section Officer Pradeep Shukla said: “The construction started only a few months ago after the process of issuing tenders was over. The government can be called slow in this regard as it always receives enough money to mitigate disaster.”

He told The Hindu that more than 80 per cent of the funds allotted under the National Disaster Response Fund , the National Calamity Relief Fund and the State Disaster Response Fund were utilised by the Uttarakhand government almost every year. In 2012, the Centre gave an extra Rs.72 crore to the State government to restore the disaster-hit areas. However, this fund was not used for construction in areas where it was needed the most, he said.

Chief Ministers of many States showed concern over the present situation. The Rajasthan government has donated Rs. 2 crore to Uttarakhand for mitigating the disaster.

Since Tuesday afternoon the list of rescued pilgrims is constantly being updated on the websites http://uttarakhandpolice.uk.gov.in and www.uk.gov.in

For information on those rescued, one can call the helpline numbers 011-23010158, 9990831003 and 9718972333.