Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday conducted an aerial survey of Uttarakhand's rain-ravaged areas to asses the damage that the state government has pegged at Rs 7,000 crore.
Talking to reporters at the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun after returning from the survey of affected areas in Kumaon region, Shah said that alertness of the central and state government agencies had helped contain the damage.
Relief and rescue operations continued in the worst-hit Kumaon region amid efforts to restore connectivity and evacuate people from vulnerable areas.
Earlier, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said that three days of incessant rains in the state have caused damages worth Rs 7,000 crore.
Restoring the network of damaged roads and bridges at the earliest and evacuating people to safety is the priority at the moment, he said.
"A heavy rain alert was issued well in advance that helped take the required precautionary steps like halting the Chardham Yatra. The damage could have been more if it was not done. Timely mobilisation of search and rescue teams and arrival of IAF helicopters to assist in rescue operations helped minimise the potential damage," Shah said.
"Sixty-four unfortunate rain-related deaths have been reported in the state, while more than 11 people are still missing," he said.
According to state authorities, the death toll due to rain-related incidents in the state increased to 54, with 19 people injured and five still missing. At 28, Nainital district has reported the maximum number of deaths.
Shah did not announce any immediate relief package for Uttarakhand due to the devastation caused by incessant rains and said that a detailed estimate of the losses needs to be prepared first.
He said the state was given Rs 250 crore nearly a month ago considering its vulnerability to natural disasters and that can take care of the relief and rescue measures currently underway.
The Centre is with the state government and it will give all support to Uttarakhand in its rehabilitation efforts, the Union minister said.
He said all blocked roads in the affected areas have been cleared, except three which suffered nearly 25-metre breaches, and added that 3,500 people have been rescued so far.
Big breaches may take more time to repair, he said.
Shah said 80 per cent telephone connectivity has been restored and availability of 60 per cent electricity has been ensured so far in the affected areas. The remaining shortage will also be removed soon.
At a high-level meeting with senior officials and state ministers after surveying the rain-hit areas, Shah asked the Uttarakhand government to send medical teams to the affected areas to prevent the spread of diseases.
Damaged power lines should be repaired at the earliest and the good coordination between central and state agencies, which was evident during the recent spell of heavy rains in the state, should be kept up, he said.
He also sought the state government's suggestions on what needs to be done for better disaster management in the state.
Shah praised Dhami for his efficient handling of the situation, saying relief and rescue operations were launched in time and many lives could be saved due to this.
He said 3,500 people were rescued, while 16,000 others were evacuated to safe locations. Seventeen teams of the National Disaster Response Force, seven teams of the State Disaster Response Force, 15 teams of the Provincial Armed Constabulary and 5,000 police personnel are engaged in the relief and rescue operations in the state.
Uttarakhand Governor Lt Gen (retd) Gurmit Singh, Dhami, Union Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt and state Disaster Management Minister Dhan Singh Rawat had accompanied Shah during the aerial survey of the affected areas.
Due to the heavy downpour and flooding of the Naini lake, the area around Dhobi Ghat in Nainital is experiencing major landslides, District Magistrate Dhiraj Singh Garbiyal said.
This area is right at the base of Nainital and is believed to be the foundation of the town. Around 100 families living in Dhobi Ghat have been shifted, he said.
Garbiyal said relief camps have been set up at a number of places. Twenty-five people were airlifted and six others were rescued with the help of rafts in Ramnagar, while 30 families from Sundarkhal and Ramnagar were airlifted and moved to safe locations.
Relief camps have also been set up in Puchdi area, which was flooded. Fifty-four members of 10 families living in Puchdi Nai Basti have been accommodated in a relief camp set up at the Government Girls Primary School, Poochri, he said.
A total of 150 people were brought to Ramnagar safely in roadways buses and sent to their destinations free of cost, while 97 families affected by floods in Lalkuan have been shifted to a gurdwara and relief camps, he added.
Meanwhile, the Chardham Yatra, which was temporarily halted on October 18 due to the heavy rain alert issued by the meteorological department, resumed with pilgrims leaving for Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri from Rishikesh Chardham bus terminal and Haridwar bus stand.
Heli services for Kedarnath have also resumed. The weather at the Himalayan temples is chilly but there is no rain.