New Delhi: Destroyed roads and wrecked communication infrastructure continued to hamper rescue efforts in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand for the fifth day Wednesday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi surveyed the devastation by air, following which the PM announced a Rs 1,000 crore relief package for the state. The Dispatch News Desk (DND) reported.
According to official data made available Wednesday, 62,970 people were stranded at various places in the hills. A total 19,724 people had been evacuated since the “early monsoon flash flood” struck the state, officials said.
The PMO put the number of dead at 102. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said 71 had died. Eyewitness accounts and unofficial estimates said the toll was likely to be much higher. Officials said the focus was currently on rescue and evacuation of survivors.
NDMA vice-chairman M Shashidhar Reddy told The Indian Express that the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) had, on June 12, forecast heavy rain in the region, but the “time from rainfall to flood was very less”. The result, Reddy said, was a crisis of the kind unseen in decades in the area.
“The forecast made by IMD on June 12th said that there was giong to be heavy rainfall in Uttarakhand and Orissa. There was no clarity on the magnitude of the rain. What we are seeing right now is a tsunami-like situation. Such kind of heavy rainfall has taken place after 60 years in the region,” Reddy said.
The prime minister, who heads the NDMA, described the situation as “most distressing”. “What chairperson UPA and I saw today was most distressing. While the most recent estimates put the death toll at 102, it is feared that loss of lives could eventually be much higher,” he told reporters in New Delhi. “Many persons still remain stranded. The maximum damage has been in Kedarnath and its vicinity.”