Thousands Feared Dead In Rain-Ravaged Uttarakhand

    NEW DELHI (TIP): Nature’s fury continued unabated amid fears of the death toll rising rainravaged Uttarakhand as many pilgrims staying in 90 rest houses may have been washed away in flash flood even as rescue operations were stepped up. The the Uttarakhand State Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre in its report to the union ministry said casualties in the affected areas may run into thousands as about 90 guest houses with pilgrims were swept away in the flash floods.

    But official death toll still stands at 150. With the weather clearing up, rescue operation were stepped up. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna while seeking funds to help the affected people, said many kilometers of roads have been washed away in Uttarakhand due to the flash floods. The chief minister said many bridges, houses, water lines, canals, check dams, electricity lines, power houses and other public and private property had been severely damaged.

    He said the Chardam pilgrimage, which includes the shrines at Kedarnath and Badrinath, had been severely hit. He appealed to people and voluntary organizations to contribute to relief efforts in the wake of the devastation caused by heavy rains, landslides, cloud bursts and floods.

    Meanwhile, an official of the Badrinath- Kedarnath Temple Committee said that pilgrimage to the shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath in Uttarakhand cannot resume for three years due to extensive damage caused by heavy rains and floods. Officials of the two shrines say the two places have been so badly devastated that there was nothing “but mud, devastation and death” around the highly revered temples visited by millions.

    “What we are seeing is very painful and unbelievable,” he said. “We don’t expect the Char Dham Yatra to resume in the next three years.” KEDARNATH SHRINE SAFE, EVERYTHING ELSE DESTROYED The ancient Kedarnath shrine has survived the devastating floods in Uttarakhand but virtually everything around it has been destroyed, an official of the temple committee said. “Call it a miracle but the Nandi statue and the other idols in the temple are intact,” the official said.

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    “In fact, those pilgrims who were in the temple during the tragedy also survived. “But the destruction all around the temple has been terrible,” said the official, adding that the real death toll in the floods and cloudburst of the weekend would be much more than the officially stated 150. But he admitted that the temple had suffered some damage. The official said there was no trace of a large number of pilgrims who were either headed to or returning from the shrine, built by Adi Shankara around 1,000 years ago.

    He said Ram Bada, located about seven kilometres from the temple, had been destroyed. So was the case with Gaurikund where there was a parking lot and a rest house. “There were an estimated 5,000 people at Ram Bada when a cloudburst took place,” he said. “The shops and houses around Kedarnath temple have been either destroyed or severely damaged,” said the official. “From the reports we are getting, I don’t think the Kedarnath pilgrimage can restart for two to three years,” he added. According to the official, 1,000 to 2,000 pilgrims were rescued from the temple region Wednesday.

    “The rescue operations are still going on.” 1,446 people rescued from flooded areas A total of 1,446 people were rescued by the NDRF from areas affected by floods caused by torrential rains in various places of north India, including Uttarakhand, a disaster management official said Thursday. “While 443 people were rescued in Uttarakhand, NDRF teams rescued 930 people from Haryana out of which 844 from Karnal and 86 from Yamuna Nagar.

    Fifty were rescued from Reckong Peo in Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh and 23 in Uttar Pradesh,” a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) official said in a statement. Twenty-nine teams of the NDRF have been deployed in various flood hit area of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal and Assam for relief operations.

    “The water levels have decreased, relief operations are continuing,” the statement added. Apart from NDRF, men and staff of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the army are carrying over the rescue operations particularly in Uttarakhand, the worst hit by heavy rains. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has put the number of people stranded in Uttarakhand at some 62,000.

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