At least 12 people were killed and 17 trapped under tonnes of debris with little chances of survival, as Monsoon rains on Friday triggered landslides in parts of Uttarakhand.
A huge landslide in Chamoli left 70 yatris bound for Badrinath stranded for hours before they were rescued.
National Disaster Response Force teams were rushed from Delhi to the affected areas in both Pithoragarh and Chamoli districts to help in the rescue operations along with along with State Disaster Response Force, Sashastra Seema Bal and Indo-Tibetan Border Police and local agencies, officials said.
While eight people were killed in Pithoragarh district, four lives were claimed by heavy rains in Chamoli district where two were swept away by a mass of mud and slush rushing into Siron village near Chamoli, Sub-Divisional Magistrate Chamoli S K Barnwal said.
One person was killed in Ghat block and another was killed in similar circumstances in Sithel village, he said adding eight persons trapped in the debris have been rescued in the district so far.
Eight people were killed as a cloudburst hit Singhali area of Pithorgarh district early this morning flattening homes in over seven villages.
“We have recovered 5 bodies from Singhali area while three bodies have been recovered from Thal village. The search for other bodies is on by rescue parties consisting of Army and paramilitary personnel,” Pithoragarh District Magistrate H C Semwal said.
The entire area is being scoured for people who went missing after the cloudburst which occurred early in the wee hours affecting several villages.
According to disaster management officeer R S Rana, the cloudburst occurred in the villages of Singhali, Patthakot, Ogla and Thal villages which are lying under heavy debris with people trapped under it.
“The rescuers are trying their best to locate and recover people,” Rana said.
Pithoragarh disaster management office said the cloudburst brought over 100 mm rains in a space of just two hours in an area spread over 50 square KM leaving a trail of destruction.
According to villagers, it is for the first time in 100 years that the region has seen such a cloudburst.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Harish Rawat and Governor K K Paul expressed grief at the loss of lives in the two districts and asked officials to be on the alert.
The crisis could be big as many people are still trapped under tonnes of debris brought in the wake of the heavy rains and cloudburst.
Inspector General (law and order) Anil Raturi said around 70 devotees bound for Badrinath were left stranded by a huge landslide near Nirmal Palace Hotel in Chamoli.
However, police and SDRF personnel evacuated them to safer locations.
Makeshift tents and foodgrains are being provided for the affected families, an official release said.
The MeT department in Dehradun had on Thursday warned of heavy rains in isolated places in Uttarakhand especially Nainital, Udhamsingh Nagar and Champawat districts over the next 72 hours starting Friday morning.
Nainital, Udhamsingh Nagar, Champawat, Almora, Pauri, Haridwar, Dehradun and Tehri may be hit by heavy to very heavy rains during the period, the MeT department had said in its warning issued on Thursday evening.
On Friday evening, the MeT department said heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely to occur at a few places with extremely heavy falls at isolated places in Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar, Champavat, Almora, Pauri, Haridwar, Dehradun and Tehri districts and heavy rain at isolated places in rest of the districts of Uttarakhand during the next 48 hours.
The cloudbursts also revealed loopholes in the state government’s preparedness to deal with such situations with Chief Minister Harish Rawat telling a private news channel that due to poor connectivity it took him four hours to establish telephonic contact with Pithoragarh district magistrate.
“Now we know what we need to do for better connectivity in disaster prone areas of the state,” he said.