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Uttarakhand speaker pegs death toll at 10,000; Shinde says 900

Last updated on: June 29, 2013 21:30 IST

Uttarakhand speaker pegs death toll at 10,000; Shinde says 900

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Two weeks after flashfloods and landslides devastated Uttarakhand, there was no clarity on the death toll with state Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal claiming on Saturday that it may cross 10,000 while Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde pegged it at 900.

Kunjwal claimed in Almora that the death toll can cross 10,000. "Earlier when I returned from a tour of Garhwal region I believed the casualty figure could be 4,000 to 5,000. But now as per my information and bodies being seen by the people, I can say the figure can cross the 10,000 mark," he said. In Mumbai, Shinde said, "According to my information, last night the toll was 900."

Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who has stated that over 1,000 people may have perished in the calamity, trashed Kunjwal's claim, saying it is incorrect and that true figures will come out once the debris have been cleared.

The National Disaster Management Authority, which is assisting in the rescue and relief operations, put the death toll at 580 till Friday evening.

Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar said a clearer picture will emerge in a couple of days as the figure of missing persons, said to be around 3,000, is being ascertained following detection of several cases of duplication.

 

Complete Coverage: Uttarakhand Disaster 2013

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Image: A pilgrim who was stranded in Uttarakhand reacts after meeting her relatives at a railway station Ahmedabad
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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Uttarakhand speaker pegs death toll at 10,000; Shinde says 900

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Rescue work in Badrinath area resumed during the day after some delay due to bad weather and 1,313 pilgrims including some villagers were evacuated --- 600 by helicopters and the remaining by road, Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar told reporters in Dehradun. He said about 500 people still remain to be evacuated.

Efforts are also being made on a war-footing to ensure supply of essential relief material to over 600 villages in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, which are cut off after the floods. 2,379 metric tonnes of wheat and 2,875 metric tonnes of rice has so far been dispatched to these villages. The frequently changing weather is hampering work as the relief material can be supplied only by air, the officials said.

Road network in Uttarakhand has been badly damaged in the floods, with 259 roads damaged in Tehri, 139 in Dehradun, 132 in Uttarkashi, 110 in Chamoli and 71 in Rudraparayag district.

Over 200 families living along the banks of Bhagirathi river have been asked to move to safer places following a rise in water level.

The meteorological department, however, has sought to allay apprehensions, stating that the water level rise is mainly due to melting of glaciers with the sun showing up and that there is no flood threat.


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Image: Buildings destroyed in Tilwara, Uttarakhand
Photographs: Ushinor Majumdar
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Uttarakhand speaker pegs death toll at 10,000; Shinde says 900

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Uttarakhand MeT department Director Anand Sharma said the snow in upper reaches was melting with the sun coming out, and this was increasing water level in rivers. "There is nothing to worry about as it will not create any flood situation," he said.

Inclement weather hampered rescue operations and work to clear debris in worst hit Kedarnath area.

Mass cremation of bodies continued for another day to minimise chances of an epidemic outbreak. The last rites of 34 bodies have been performed and the cremation of 12 more bodies pulled out from the debris is likely to be conducted soon after identification and other formalities have been completed, officials said.

With the threat of an epidemic outbreak looming large due to decaying bodies lying under debris, and some also flowing down the Ganga, teams of doctors have been sent to affected districts to initiate remedial action, the officials said.

A team of experts from Archaeological Survey of India will visit the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand to assess the quantum of damage caused by the flood fury as also the restoration work required for the shrine.

The team of five experts from Dehradun and Delhi will discuss all aspects of the restoration work of the revered temple, which bore the brunt of floods and landslides triggered by the deluge in the hill state on June 16.

Shinde said as of today, about 1.05 lakh people have been evacuated from the affected areas of Uttarakhand. "But still there are several places where there are people (stranded)."

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Image: Army men rescue a tourist stranded in Uttarakhand
Photographs: Indian Army

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Uttarakhand speaker pegs death toll at 10,000; Shinde says 900

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The home minister said the military would carry out combing operations to evacuate remaining stranded people.

There has been partial scaling down of Indian Air Force operations with the majority of stranded people having been evacuated to safer places, a senior official said.

Admitting extensive damage to hydel power projects built in the Ganga and its tributaries flowing in affected areas, the chief secretary said the 4 mw Kaliganga -- 1 project commissioned a few months ago had been totally washed away by the floods causing a loss of about Rs 40 crore.

Though the extent of damage caused by the calamity is still being assessed by different departments, according to preliminary estimates of the PWD and the department of hydro electricity the losses must run into over Rs 700-800 crore.

Estimates from various other departments including agriculture are still awaited, he said.

The chief secretary parried a question on conflicting toll figures being given by the chief minister and the Speaker saying a clearer picture would emerge after confusion over the number of people missing is cleared.

Though the official figure for the number of people missing as of now continues to be 3000, some cases of duplication have been reported, he said. "However, the matter is being sorted out and we may be able to give you an exact figure of the number of people killed or missing in a couple of days," he said.

 

 


Image: Soldiers carry boxes of relief supplies as an army helicopter flies overhead during a rescue operation at Joshimath
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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