Dehradun/ New Delhi: With skies clearing, rescue of stranded people and relief operations intensified Wednesday in Uttarakhand where the death toll in the rain and floods shot up to 150 as thousands of pilgrims still remained stranded.
Reports today suggested that the famous Kedarnath shrine, where 50 people died in the landslide that accompanied torrential rain and flash floods, is intact notwithstanding the heavy damage all around.
Uttarakhand Principal Secretary Om Prakash said the death toll in the State has gone up to 150 but was not in a position to give the exact estimate since several villages in Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts in the upper reaches were still under water.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna told reporters that he was also not in a position to give the exact estimate of death and destruction which he said was unprecedented in the State.
It would take one year to restore normalcy on the road to Kedarnath from the after effects of the cloud burst which he described as a “Himalayan tsunami”.
The first priority is to rescue the stranded people especially those on pilgrimage from various parts of the country, distribution of medicines and rehabilitation and compensation for the affected, he said.
PM sanctions Rs.1,000 crore relief
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday granted Rs.1,000 crore for disaster relief in Uttarakhand.
The prime minister, who made an aerial survey of the rain and flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand with United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, said here they were distressed to see the devastation.
"What the UPA chairperson 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 said.
The prime minister said more than 10,000 people have been rescued and were being provided food, clothing and shelter, but many were still stranded.
He said the maximum damage was in Kedarnath and its vicinity.
He said the priority for the authorities was to rescue the stranded people and provide urgently needed succour to those most in need of it.
"We saw the large-scale devastation that has been caused in the state. Our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost their lives and those who have suffered injury or loss of property in this huge tragedy," the prime minister said.
He said the immediate need was for rescue and relief operations and the government would not spare any effort in this regard.
"I have decided to provide Rs.1,000 crore to Uttarakhand for disaster relief, of which Rs.145 crore is being released immediately. I have also directed all central agencies to render all possible assistance in their domain to the state," he said.
The prime minister said the central and state governments have deployed all possible resources to deal with the immediate aftermath of the ghastly tragedy.
"About 5,500 jawans and army officers, 3,000 men of the Border Roads Organisation and 600 ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) personnel are engaged in relief and rescue efforts. Thirteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed," he said.
The Indian Air Force, he said, has deployed 18 helicopters and a C-130 aircraft and private helicopters have also been engaged by the state government.
He said it would take some time to assess the magnitude of the loss in terms of lives lost and houses destroyed or damage to infrastructure.
He said the central and state governments would continue to work in close coordination to ensure that every possible effort is made not only to provide immediate relief to the affected people but also to help them reconstruct their lives.
The prime minister announced an ex-gratia assistance of Rs.2 lakh each to the families of the deceased and Rs.50, 000 each to the injured.
The monetary aid will be given from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF)
"We will also provide from the PMNRF ex-gratia assistance of Rs.1 lakh each to those whose houses have been completely destroyed and Rs.50,000 each to those whose houses have been damaged," he said.