54 killed in Uttarakhand, 21 bridges collapse

A submerged bridge over the Ganga in Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand, on Tuesday. At right is the flood-ravaged temple town of Kedarnath.— Photos: PTI & AP

A submerged bridge over the Ganga in Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand, on Tuesday. At right is the flood-ravaged temple town of Kedarnath.— Photos: PTI & AP  

Monsoon fury continued to wreak havoc on Uttarakhand on Tuesday with flash floods, landslips and cloudbursts claiming 54 lives and leaving 61,890 Char-Dham yatris stranded in Chamoli, Rudraprayag, and Uttarkashi districts.

Twenty-five thousand people are stranded in Rudraprayag, 27,040 in Chamoli, 9,850 in Uttarkashi, and 900 in Tehri districts.

Of the 54 dead, 20 people died in the worst-hit Rudraprayag district, nine in Dehradun, nine in Almora, and 16 in Chamoli, Uttarkashi,Tehri, Haridwar, Pithoragarh and Nainital districts.

Twenty-one bridges have collapsed, including eight bridges in Chamoli and seven in Pithoragarh districts.

According to the Uttarakhand Disaster Management and Mitigation Centre reports, 44 people were severely injured and 17 went missing.

Though 105 buildings collapsed in Pithoragarh district in Kumaon, the government was yet to provide the exact number of deaths. Till Tuesday evening, Uttarakhand Department of Disaster Management registered only one death in Pithoragarh district.

According to Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar, many people died in landslips in the Tejam region in Pithoragarh district but data is not yet available.

Uttarakhand Director General of Police Satyavrat Bansal said: “The government has not been able to calculate exact figures on the number of deaths, injuries, and missing persons yet due to the lack of connectivity with the disaster-ridden areas.”

A Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) team was sent to Kedarnath to restore connectivity.

The situation is so severe that though 10,000 food packets along with glucose bottles and water were sent to the disaster-struck areas in Chamoli, Rudraprayag, and Uttarkashi districts, the helicopters were unable to drop the food to the required places as most of the food packets fell into the ferociously flowing flooded rivers.

Mr. Kumar said: “For flying at a lower altitude, small helicopters will be brought into use from Wednesday so that people can be spotted and food packets can be safely delivered.”

On Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna’s request, the Centre would provide 6 MI-17 and 6 ALH helicopters.

Medical facilities and clothing are available but only at the rescue camps. The blocked sites are still cut off from all means of survival.

Mr. Kumar said 3,000 people were rescued from Govindghat and moved to Joshimath on Monday. Around 400 people rescued from Kedarnath have been moved to Guptkashi, but, around 800 are still stuck there. “It will take three more days to rescue everyone from Kedarnath. It might take up to four days to rescue the people from some places in Uttarkashi like Dharansu,” Mr. Kumar said.

Due to the collapsed bridges, 6,000 people are stranded in Ghangaria in Chamoli district. The Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are re-constructing the bridges.

Rambada not traceable

Garhwal Commissioner Suvardhan said: “Rambada [in Rudraprayag district] has undergone destruction to the extent that we were unable to spot the place from the helicopter.”

Mr. Suvardhan said while 400 people were rescued from Kedarnath, the shrine was still blocked on all sides.

Anand Sharma, Director of the Meteorological Centre in Dehradun, said, “The situation started improving from Tuesday afternoon. There will be moderate rainfall at a few places for the next 48 hours. The water level too has started reducing. It will soon be below the danger level.”

Even as the Garhwal and the Kumaon region faced the havoc, Almora District Magistrate Akshat Gupta told The Hindu , “The situation is in control in Almora, Bageshwar, and Udam Singh Nagar districts, where the road blockages are being cleared even in the night.”

In a meeting here on Tuesday, Ministers including Leader of the Opposition Ajay Bhatt, MP from Tehri Mala Raj Lakshmi Shah and some other BJP leaders agreed to work together towards rescuing the victims.

“Around 800 people are still stuck in Kedarnath and it will take three

more days to rescue them”

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