"1.1 lakh persons evacuated to safer places in the shortest possible time”

Over 6,000 people are feared dead in the devastating flash floods and landslips that struck Uttarakhand in June, the government said in a statement on Monday.

“More than 580 people are confirmed to have lost their lives. Besides, another 5,474 people who are still missing are feared to be no more,” Defence Minister A.K Antony said in the Lok Sabha.

Describing the disaster as one of “unprecedented magnitude”, Mr. Antony said 1.1 lakh persons were evacuated to safer places in the “shortest possible time, notwithstanding widespread destruction of roads, difficult terrain and extremely hostile weather.”

Providing details of the measures taken by the State government, the Centre, and the armed and paramilitary forces in rescue and rehabilitation efforts, Mr. Antony said the Indian Air Force (IAF) had rescued 23,775 people, the army 38,750 and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) 33,000, from the affected areas.

The Prime Minister had announced assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for immediate relief and rehabilitation during his visit to Uttarakhand on June 19, of which the Centre has already released Rs. 400 crore, he said. . Mr. Antony said additional funds would be released by the Centre “depending on the requirement of the State.” He was countered by the BJP which alleged that the funds had not reached Uttarakhand as yet.

“A Cabinet Committee, headed by the Prime Minister, was set up to provide guidelines for expeditious reconstruction and rehabilitation measures. An Inter-Ministerial Group has also been established to draw up a time-bound action plan,’’ the statement added. Mr. Antony assured the House that the Centre would continue to support the State government for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction and ensure that the State was “better equipped to handle such crises.” It had been decided that the Uttarakhand issue would be the first to be taken up for discussion in the House, the Speaker said.

The Defence Minister also mentioned five IAF personnel, nine of the National Disaster Response Force, and six ITBP personnel, besides two pilots, who had lost their lives in a helicopter crash during rescue operations.

“The region will long remember the heroic commitment and courage displayed by our armed forces and police forces, as well as a large number civilian officials, residents and tourists who contributed towards rescue operations ,” he said.

While essential supplies such as food, drinking water, medicine, kerosene and blankets were being “continuously provided by airdropping and by land routes”, 1,710 roads, power supply to 3,700 villages, and drinking water schemes have been temporarily restored and implemented.