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50,000 still stranded in Uttarakhand

More than 34,000 people have been evacuated from the flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand so far, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said yesterday, adding that about 50,000 still remain stranded.

The home minister, after a meeting with members of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), said, “We have evacuated more than 34,000 people. Some 49,000-50,000 people are still stranded.”

“The figure of the death toll so far is 207, but more people could be buried in the debris,” Shinde said. The minister said the official casualty figures would be avaiable by evening, as communication channels had been destroyed by the floods and transmission of information to Delhi was taking time.

The home minister said a committee was being formed, under the stewardship of former home secretary and NDMA member VK Duggal, to coordinate the rescue effort.

He added that according to a preliminary report, two cloudbursts in the area caused the disaster.

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has committed 13 more aircraft for relief and rescue work, taking the total to 43, in flood-hit Uttarakhand, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said.

“The IAF has committed 13 more aircraft, taking the total to 43. It is also activating landing grounds at Gouchar and Dharasu in Uttarakhand to establish an airbase,” said Tewari.

“IAF plans to operate Advanced Light Helicopter and Cheetah for rescue operations. MI 17 landed in Gouchar yesterday with food and paratroopers,” he added.
Tewari said that the situation is “being monitored at the level of the cabinet secretary and regular meetings are taking place.”

The Uttarakhand government is creating a live database which could be accessed by people as well as agencies who are involved in the rescue effort.

‘Only Kedarnath shrine intact, destruction all around’
Only the sanctum sanctorum of the revered Kedarnath shrine with the Shivling in it is intact, while the area immediately around the temple is a site of destruction, with bodies scattered, an Uttarakhand minister said yesterday. Uttarakhand Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat said his chopper landed at Kedarnath with “great difficulty”.

“Though the Shivling is intact, there is destruction all around, with bodies scattered all around. It is a very heart-rending situation,” he said.

He said 2,000 people have been brought down by the ITBP and army.

He added that in Rambada near Kedarnath, which has been completely devastated, authorities have made a helipad where small choppers could land.
“It will take us at least five years to recover from the extensive damages,” he added. 

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