With questions being raised whether large-scale deaths in Uttarkhand could have been averted, the MeT department today said it had issued "timely" warnings of heavy rains and landslides while the state government claimed there was not enough prior indication of a "crisis of this magnitude".
Uttarkhand Met department Director Anand Sharma said that they had issued these advisories from June 14 for the next couple of days and even suggested that the Char Dham yatra of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri be postponed for 4-5 days.
"From 14th, we had started giving the heavy rainfall warning....For 15th we had issued warning for very heavy rains... and we also said if you could postpone the yatra for 4-5 days.... And 16th, we said heavy to very heavy rainfall and specifically highlighted the regions....," he said.
Uttarakhand Disaster Management Minister Yashpal Arya admitted that the Met department had issued the warning but said there was little the authorities could do because of the extent of the natural calamity as lakhs of people were scattered in the region.
"We had prior information. But there was no visible indication of crisis of this magnitude," the minister said.
"Lakhs of people were in different places. What could have the department done? We did our best and we will keep doing it," Arya said.
Sharma, however, said that the warnings cannot be "so specific" and it is difficult to anticipate how the situation will unfold in such circumstances.
He said the state Met department had warned that people should avoid going to the hills and those already in higher reaches should move to safer places but conceded that such warnings were of little help to the people who were already on the move and had little access to any form of communication.
"The Disaster Management authorities here were aware of the warnings. Who am I to say whether the state government acted on the warnings or not," Sharma told PTI on whether the the state government had failed to act promptly on the advisories.
Sharma said he had read reports in the newspapers that the chief secretary had asked people not to visit the Char Dham in view of the MeT department forecast of bad weather.
On the causes of the massive scale of loss of human life and property in the calamity, Sharma said it can happen despite MeT department warnings.
"Our warnings cannot be so specific. Heavy to very heavy rains coupled with landslides at places is not enough to suggest that there is going to be crisis of this magnitude," he said.