Lack of access worsens starvation

C. K. Chandramohan
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A medical team from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police attending on flood victims at a camp in Uttarakhand on Thursday.— PHOTO: PTI
A medical team from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police attending on flood victims at a camp in Uttarakhand on Thursday.— PHOTO: PTI

More reports of villages facing starvation came in on Friday from Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts of Garhwal division and Pithoragarh in Kumaon division. “The elderly and children may face serious problems if rations were not provided immediately,” said Satish Rauthan of Pilang village.

Although the government has ordered district magistrates to send rations by helicopters, the problem persists as many villages do not have space for the choppers carrying rations to land. Roads or pathways to many more have been wiped out by last week’s deluge.

The worst-hit villages included Gavana, Agoda, Jamak, Naitala, Hina, Siror, Dindsari, Bhatwadi, Sainj, Jakhol, Raithal and Jhala, a zilla panchayat member, who preferred not to be named, said. “Although the government has announced that it will rush rations by helicopters, it is to be seen how much really reaches the remote villages,” he said.

The situation in Budha Kedar area of Bhilangana block was grim as no one from the administration had so far reached there although more than six houses had been washed away along with a dozen watermills and a large portion of agricultural land. “Our food stocks have been nearly exhausted and the government should do something to save us from starvation,” said Ramesh Singh.

A number of women at Joshimath were worried as their children were stranded with the mules at Ghangaria.

A Pawan Hans helicopter was damaged after it made an emergency landing at Harsil on Friday.

Amidst fluctuating weather conditions, 578 persons were rescued by air and 500 by road and about 659 persons were stranded at various locations. The dead were being cremated at various places, the State Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre said.

The Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde held a high-level review meeting at the Secretariat here and announced that helicopters of the IAF and Army would continue to be stationed in Uttarakhand for another 15 days to help reach ration and fuel to a large number of remote villages where road transport was not possible.

The Border Roads Organisation had been tasked to restore all roads at the shortest possible time, Mr. Shinde said.

Union Tourism Minister K. Chiranjeevi announced a package of Rs. 195 crore for the rejuvenation of the devastated Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. The amount would be used by the State government for the renovation and reconstruction of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri and the roads leading to them, Mr. Chiranjeevi told reporters.

S. T. K. Jakkaiyan, special representative of the Tamil Nadu government, gave a cheque for Rs. 5 crore to Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna for relief works.

The Army Chief, Gen. Bikram Singh, who visited Gauchar and then made an aerial survey of the devastated areas said the armed forces will continue their operations till all the people were rescued. “We are getting information that there may still be some survivors in certain areas. On a tip-off we made sorties yesterday to locate some 40 persons stranded behind Badrinath. They could not be located but we will try again to locate them as not a single person should be left stranded,” Gen. Singh said.

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