Inclement weather badly hampered cremation of bodies and removal of debris at Kedarnath on Friday besides affecting distribution of relief in over 200 segregated villages where people have lost their homes and are faced with acute foodgrain shortage.
Though a 200-member team of experts drawn from different departments is already at the Himalayan shrine to speed up removal of debris and disposal of already decomposing bodies, they have not made much headway so far with only 59 bodies visible on the surface cremated in over a week's time in the valley including those disposed of within premises of the shrine.
While 36 bodies were cremated in shrine area earlier, 23 more bodies were cremated at Gaurikund and Junglechatti close to the temple on Wednesday after a gap of several days due to bad weather, Deputy Inspector General Amit Sinha told PTI. However, not much has been done since Friday morning with rains lashing Kedarghati. Most of the officials admitted that the weather is hampering the exercise.
Distribution of relief in about 240 villages totally cut off is another headache for the administration with major roads in the worst hit Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts still closed for traffic and choppers being the only means to transport relief to affected people. Tonnes of relief material provided by the administration, different states, political parties and NGOs are still stuck in government godowns of Guptkashi and Joshimath from where they are yet to be flown to people who need them badly as they face foodgrain shortage 19 days after the tragedy.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said it was good that the state meteorological department has issued area specific warning this time helping the state government to take precautionary measures to prevent any damage due to heavy rains expected in Kumaon region in the next 48 hours. "Had it issued similar area specific warning for Chamoli district prior to the calamity last month, the damage perhaps could have been minimised," he told reporters outside the secretariat here when asked about arrangements in view of the MeT department warning of heavy rains in parts of the state in the next 48 hours especially the Kumaon region.
National Disaster Response Force personnel are deployed in advance in areas where heavy rains have been predicted by the weatherman and the district magistrates concerned have been alerted, Bahuguna said.
The MeT department has issued an alert saying that heavy rains may lash parts of the state in the next 48 hours especially Pithoragarh, Nainital, Bageshwar, Almora, Champavat and Pauri Garhwal districts in Kumaon region. "It is good that the MeT office has issued area specific warning this time. A similar area specific warning for Chamoli district last month could have helped minimise the large scale damage caused by the tragedy," Bahuguna said.
Soon after the tragedy occurred last month the state government and the MeT department were engaged in a blame game with chief secretary Subhash Kumar saying the weatherman's prediction was of a general type which could not have been taken as an indication to a tragedy of this scale and the latter suggesting that its warning was not taken seriously by the administration.
Image: Volunteers unload wood from a truck to be used for mass cremation at Kedarnath
Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters