sns & pti
DEHRADUN, 21 JUNE: The death toll in flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand crossed 550 as rescuers intensified efforts today to evacuate 50,000 people still stranded in different inaccessible parts of the hill state.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who gave the updated death toll, told CNN-IBN, “556 bodies have been recovered and there were reports that more could be buried under the debris.” Mr Bahuguna also said it will take another 15 days to complete the evacuation.
“Evacuation is taking time because roads are damaged,” he said.
It was not immediately known if the death toll included 40 bodies found floating along the Ganges river near Haridwar.
Rescue workers have a crucial 48-hour window to evacuate those stranded in the mountains of Uttarakhand as rains are expected to return to the state by Sunday evening. Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth reviewed the humongous search, rescue and relief operations at a meeting of top officials from the Army, Air Force, ITBP, NDRF, BRO, among others.
The India Meteorological Department Director General, who also attended the meeting, said light to moderate rains could commence over western Himalayas from Sunday evening and could increase to rather heavy rains in some areas from 26 June.
“We have evacuated 34,000 people from various parts of Uttarakhand but 50,000 people are still stranded,” Union home minister Mr Sushilkumar Shinde said after holding a separate review meeting on the Uttarakhand situation that was attended by representatives of a slew of ministries and agencies.
Mr Shinde said there was an impression that lack of coordination among multiple agencies was hampering the government’s rescue and relief efforts. “So, we have appointed former Union home secretary Mr V K Duggal as nodal officer for coordinating relief and rescue operations.” BRO personnel have been engaged in affected belts of the state to restore road links. Railways minister Mr Mallikarjun Kharge has also directed the Railway Board to arrange special trains to evacuate stranded persons from affected areas.
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