Uttarakhand rains: Five tourists killed, toll rises to 65; state pegs its losses at Rs 7,000 crore

Uttarakhand rains: Five tourists killed, toll rises to 65; state pegs its losses at Rs 7,000 crore
Indian Army jawan rescues a child and villagers stranded in flood-water in Tanakpur, Uttarakhand. PTI

Dehradun: Five tourists have died in Kapkot in Uttarakhand's Kumaon, officials said Thursday as the death toll in the state battered by the recent rains rose to 65.

The confirmation about the death of tourists stranded near Kapkot's Sunderdhunga glacier in Bageshwar district came on a day when Union Home Minister Amit Shah conducted an aerial survey of the rain damage, pegged by the state government at Rs 7,000 crore.

Earlier, the official count of the dead was 60.

Apart from the five dead, one tourist was missing, officials said. Four were rescued.

About 65 tourists had been trapped on the higher reaches of Bageshwar and rescue teams ere at work to bring those still remaining there to safety, officials said.

Amit Shah told reporters at the Jollygrant airport here that the alertness of the Central and state government agencies helped contain the damage in Uttarakhand.

Relief and rescue operations continued in the worst-hit Kumaon region amid efforts to restore connectivity and evacuate people from vulnerable areas.

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said that three days of incessant rains which began Sunday night - have caused damage of Rs 7,000 crore in the state.

Restoring the network of damaged roads and bridges and evacuating people to safety is the priority at the moment, he said. At 28, Nainital district has reported the maximum number of deaths.

Shah said a heavy rain alert was issued well in advance and led to precautionary steps like halting the Chardham Yatra.

Uttarakhand rains: Five tourists killed, toll rises to 65; state pegs its losses at Rs 7,000 crore
Union Home Minister Amit Shah conducts an aerial survey of flood and landslide affected areas of Uttarakhand following heavy rains. PTI

"The damage could have been more if this 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," the home minister said.

He did not announce any immediate relief package for Uttarakhand and said a detailed estimate of the loss needed to be made first.

He said the state was given Rs 250 crore 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 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.

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.

At a high-level meeting with 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 disease.

Damaged power lines should be repaired at the earliest and the good coordination between central and state agencies, which was evident during the spell of heavy rains in the state, should be kept up, he said.

He also sought the state government's suggestions on better disaster management.

He said 3,500 people were rescued and 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 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.

Due to the heavy downpour and the flooding of the Naini lake, the area around Dhobi Ghat in Nainital is experiencing major landslides, District Magistrate Dhiraj Singh Garbiyal said.

Around 100 families living there 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.

Altogether 150 people were brought to Ramnagar safely in roadways buses and sent to their destinations, while 97 families affected by floods in Lalkuan have been shifted to a gurdwara and relief camps, he said.

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.

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