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680 still stranded in Uttarakhand

Statesman News Service |

Statutory body to oversee relief, rehab
press trust of india
Dehradun, 1 July
Over 200 pilgrims and locals were today rescued from the flood-ravaged areas of Uttarakhand where another 680 were still stranded even as Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna announced that a statutory body will be set up to oversee relief and rehabilitation work.
Amidst conflicting reports on the number of those killed in the tragedy, the chief minister refused to speculate on the casualty figure.
“There is no room for speculation on the casualty figure. It is a massive tragedy but as per my information, the number of visible bodies is 500 to 600. Bodies are lying under the debris and around 3,000 are still missing,” he told reporters here.
Increasing the ambit of those who will be entitled to compensation, Mr Bahuguna said: “Everyone who suffered losses from owners of small kiosks to hotels will be given compensation”.
He said a statutory body will be set up to oversee relief and rehabilitation efforts in the worst-hit areas.
Officials in Chamoli district said 220 pilgrims in Badrinath were evacuated to safety today, leaving 680 still stranded.
Despite bad weather at places including Dehradun, chopper operations began this morning in Chamoli district to evacuate about 300 pilgrims and 600 locals from Badrinath shrine to Joshimath from where they will be brought further down by the road.
Approximately 3,000 people have been reported missing after the tragedy, according to officials.
The chief secretaries of the states concerned have been asked to verify the list and if the lost people are not traced in a month, they will be declared dead.
On the 16th day of the calamity today, only 36 bodies have been disposed of amid necessary rituals so far in the worst-hit Kedarnath shrine area with no cremation having taken place there over the past two days, officials said.
The state government has sent a 200-member team of medical experts, trained police personnel and support staff from the municipal corporation to the Valley to perform the onerous task of extricating the bodies and their ritual cremation.
Some of the medical experts, who had been sent to Kedarnath to take the DNA samples of the bodies there, have returned after falling sick.
With bodies of humans and animals like mules lying all over the area, a foul smell hangs in the air, making it difficult for those sent to clear the debris stay there for long.
“The frequently changing weather with intermittent rains is another hurdle. We are going about the cremation process slowly,” DIG Sanjay Gunjyal, who is supervising the exercise, told PTI over the phone.
Despite the odds being faced by the administration in transporting relief material to affected people with around 50 per cent of the roads still damaged, free of cost food grains and other essential commodities are being provided to the affected villages cut-off from the roads in helicopters, said an official statement.
Kerosene is also being made available to the people of the affected areas on subsidised rates.
Out of the 4,200 cut-off of villages or habitations, 2,865 habitations have been restored so far, the official statement said.