Dehradun: The death toll in the Uttarakhand floods has risen to 150 and is set to rise as rescue teams reach more devastated sites. Over 60,000 people remain stranded with food and medical supplies running low. Rescue teams reach have reached the Kedarnath temple, the site of the biggest devastation sending out pictures of the sheer scale of destruction.
The shrine is still intact but the shops and dharamshalas around the temple are badly damaged. Security forces rescued hundreds from Kedarnath on Wednesday but there is still no clarity on the final death toll there.
Rescue sorties continued through the day on Wednesday to evacuate all the pilgrims from Kedarnath. Many of the pilgrims have spent the past five days trying to save themselves and their loved ones. The centuries old holy town is now covered in debris.
Over 5,000 people are also stranded in Gaurikund. As a precaution the central government has cancelled batches for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, after authorities declared the roads and trekking routes unsafe.
In Haridwar, NDRF teams have their hands full, with roadblocks and landslides hampering rescue operations at every turn.
As resue operations continue, so does the desperate search for loved ones. There is no centralised list of missing people and relatives carrying photographs of their loved ones are asking whoever they meeet for help.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with UPA chief Sonia Gandhi did an aerial survey of Uttarakhand on Wednesday with the PM also announcing Rs 1,000 crore for relief of which Rs 145 crore is being released immediately.
The Prime Minister said it is feared that the loss of lives could eventually be much higher. "So far, more than 10,000 people have been rescued and are being provided food, clothing and shelter. Many persons still remain stranded. The maximum damage has been in Kedarnath and its vicinity," he said.
"Very heavy casualties are feared and I cannot give the exact number without a proper survey," said Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna who described the flood ravage as unprecedented caused by a "Himalayan tsunami". Bahuguna, who described the scale of the devastation as unimaginable, said it would take one year for normal yatra to Kedarnath to be restored.
The first priority is to rescue the stranded people especially those on pilgrimage from various parts of the country, distribution of medicines and rehabilitation and compensation for the affected, he said. Uttarakhand Principal Secretary (Home) Om Prakash said the death toll in the state has gone up to 150 but was not in a position to give the exact estimate since several villages in Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts in the upper reaches were still under water.
The state and Central governments have deployed all possible resources to deal with the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. About 5,500 jawans and officers of the army, 3,000 men of the Border Roads Organisation and 600 ITBP personnel are engaged in relief and rescue efforts. Thirteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been put into work. The Air Force has deployed 18 helicopters and C130 aircraft. Private helicopters are also being engaged by the state government.
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
(With additional information from PTI)