Dehradun: Even as government sources say rescue operations in Uttarakhand could be completed in the next 48 to 72 hours, a few villages still remain completely cut-off and haven't received any relief aid in the past eight days. The fear now is that more lives may be lost.
Over 5,000 people still remain stranded across Uttarakhand and at least 400 people are officially missing. The mass cremation of unidentified bodies has begun in Kedarnath.
"The cremation of bodies in Kedarnath which was being put off again and again for the past two days due to bad weather was finally taken up this afternoon," IAS officer Ravinath Raman said. The temple town of Kedarnath was the epicentre of destruction. However, the number of bodies cremated was not immediately known.
Local villages cut-off, await help
Huge challenges also remain in terms of relief and supplies for the survivors. There is already an acute shortage of clean drinking water and at least 300 villagers have already reported sick with dysentery.
In the village of Khaat, 2 km short of Phata, the locals have been left without ration for days with all roads leading to this village blocked and cut-off. "We have had no ration for the past 15 to 20 days. Earlier we used to get supplies in black, now that too has stopped," said a villager, Jagannath Singh.
Jagannath Singh and his wife Kamla live on their own and for the elderly couple, managing resources all by themselves at this time of crisis has become next to impossible. "We are lucky to be alive. But there is no flour to even make chappatis with," Kamla said.
Until now, the focus had been on rescue operations and evacuation, but there are many local villages that are suffering as well with electricity, communication lines and roads cut-off for 11 long days. In fact, many taxis have also stopped operating due to shortage of diesel.
The question now is as to how long will it be before basic facilities are restored in such villages. "The devastation is massive in scale. It will take months to reconstruct roads and bridges. Now that the evacuation process is almost over, we will now turn our attention to the locals," said nodal officer Raman Nath Singh.
There are many such villages enroute Kedarnath, struggling for basics. Rampur, that was once a tourist hub, now wears a deserted look with empty tea stalls and hotels.
The gushing waters have not only swept away and uprooted lives, they have put a stop to a normal life. For people in these once bustling Himalayan towns, to restart what is normal will probably take many, many months.
The heroes who laid their lives to save those stranded
Bodies of the Air Force officers who died in the Mi-17 V5 chopper crash will be brought to Barrackpore. Even as the IAF inquiry team is headed to the crash site near Gaurikund, Army paratroopers are already there to help search and retrieve bodies.
The heroes, those in uniform are continuing with rescue operations at severe risk to their own lives. In the tragic helicopter crash on Tuesday, Kathua based ITBP inspector Bhim Singh lost his life in Gaurikund while saving the thousands of pilgrims trapped.
Martyr Bhim Singh's family got the sad news on Wednesday when the local police informed them leaving the whole border village Bobiya in grief. He survived by his two daughters studying in 12th and 8th class, younger son studying in 4th class and his widow Renu Kumari.
Uttarakhand CM announces relief package
Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government on Wednesday announced a special economic package for Kedarnath and Govindghat, which were two of the worst hit regions. Small shopkeepers and businessmen have lost a lot in the floods and other locals affected will also be compensated, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said, as he revised the amounts of compensation being offered.
He announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the families of the Air Force, ITBP and NDRF men who died in that Mi-17 V5 chopper crash. The families of those who have lost their lives will be given Rs 5 lakh and compensation is also being announced to those who were injured and whose homes were damaged.
Save the Children contact details:
Website : www.savethechildren.in
Phone : 011-42294900 / 66141335
Uttarkashi: 01374-226126, 226161
The ITBP helpline and control room numbers: 011-24362892, 9968383478
Army medical emergency helpline numbers: 18001805558, 18004190282, 8009833388
Uttarakhand Helpline numbers: 0135-2710334, 2710335, 2710233
Railway helpline numbers at Haridwar: 09760534054/09760534055;
Special helpline numbers:
State Disaster Management Centre: 0135-2710334, 2710335, 2718401-04. Fax: 2718400, 6555523, 6555524
Others: 09755444486, 09808151240, 09837134399, 999779124, 9451901023, 9456755206, 9634535758
For more information, please see the website where details are available: http://uk.gov.in
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Haridwar Control Room Numbers: 01334-233727, 01334-265876, 01334-223999, 01334-226849
Contact Person Dr Naresh Chaudhary: 9837352202