DEHRA DUN/NEW DELHI, 19 JUNE: Over 70,000 people are still said to be missing in Uttarakhand after unprecedented rains and cloudburst led to landslides and flash floods.
Although the official death toll based on body count is pegged at 150, it is feared that the actual toll could be exponentially higher as rescuers haven’t yet been able to reach many ravaged towns.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said that more than 18 km of the mountainous trek to Kedarnath had been ripped apart and it would not be possible for pilgrims to go there for at least a year.
The full impact of nature’s fury was visible as days of blinding rains ~ 380 mm, some 450 per cent more than usual ~ abated and the skies cleared today, allowing the Army and para-military forces to rescue thousands.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi saw from helicopters the extent of damage and destruction. One official involved in the evacuation and rescue work told IANS over telephone that they feared that thousands might have perished in the rains and flash floods in Uttarakhand.
"We are not sure of the number who have died but for sure the numbers are much higher as more than 15,000 people are reported missing," the official said. The Prime Minister said more than 10,000 people have been rescued. Home Secretary R K Singh visited Dehradun, the state capital, to study the situation. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the National Disaster Response Force, the Army and Air Force joined the rescue efforts, using ropes to rescue those stranded in precarious cliffs.
In the national capital, the water level in the Yamuna was near the 207.7 metre danger level, the highest since 1978. One man died while bathing in the Yamuna in north Delhi. The situation continued to be grim across other north Indian states as well.
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