Monsoon fury: Death toll rises to 81, rescue efforts hit

NEW DELHI, June 18:  Monsoon rains wreaked fresh havoc in northern India leading to flash floods, cloudbursts and landslips as the death toll climbed to 81 and hundreds of pilgrims bound for Himalayan shrines remained stranded.

Landslides left scores of tourists and pilgrims stranded in the hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh while thousands have been displaced in Uttar Pradesh where several rivers are in spate.

Flash floods, cloudbursts and landslips have claimed 52 lives in Uttarakhand while damaging 175 houses across the state. Officials said that the toll could rise manifold as there were many areas where rescue teams are yet to reach.

Rudraprayag was the worst hit with 20 people reported dead and 73 buildings, including 40 hotels, along the banks of the Alaknanda swept away in the swirling waters of the river.

A total of 71,440 pilgrims bound for the Himalayan shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are stranded in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts of Uttarakhand with the famous char dham yatra having been suspended due to massive damage to the road network.

While 27,040 devotees are stranded in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi have 25,000 and 9,850 stranded pilgrims, Disaster Management authorities said.

More than a dozen helicopters have been deployed in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh for relief and rescue operations with officials saying that all stranded people are expected to be evacuated soon.

Union Home Secretary R K Singh said food, medicines and blankets were air-dropped in remote areas of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

“We have provided seven helicopters to Uttarakhand. The state government has also hired four private helicopters. We are providing helicopters to Himachal Pradesh. Hopefully, all stranded people will be evacuated today,” Singh said here.

Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who was stranded in Kinnaur district for nearly 60 hours due to landslides, was evacuated this morning by a chopper hired by his Congress party. Singh was airlifted after rains abated and the weather cleared.

Rescue operations continued in full swing in the rain ravaged tribal Kinnaur district with about 150 persons rescued from Sangla and Rekong Peo and dropped off at Rampur till evening by one state and two IAF choppers which made about 15 sorties.

A high alert has, meanwhile, been issued in Uttar Pradesh following heavy rainfall across the state and the release of water by several barrages in the past 24 hours.

Four persons were killed in rain-related incidents in the state. While three teenagers were killed in Maharajganj after being struck by lightning, a woman was killed and six others injured when a house collapsed in heavy rains in Muzaffarnagar.

Sources said that the Sharda was flowing above the red mark at Palia Kalan with directives having been issued to evacuate 44 villages in the Mahsi area in Bahraich.

MeT sources, however, said that there could be a decrease in rainfall soon although they also warned of heavy showers in isolated areas of eastern UP in the coming 24 hrs.

According to Central Water Commission sources, the levels of Sharda, Rapti, Ghaghra, Burhi Rapti, Rohin and Kuano rivers were constantly on the rise.

A report from Bahraich said that with the release of 4 lakh cusecs from Nepal through Banbasa barrage, the threat of floods was imminent in the district.

The release of water in Narora means that about 100 villages on the banks of the Ganga and the Ram Ganga  in Farrukhabad district faced a threat of flood.

Principal secretary irrigation, Deepak Singhal said that in the wake of the current situation, all divisional, district magistrates and other officers have been directed to remain vigilant and take necessary steps to deal with the emergency.

He said that of the 75 districts in the state, 23 were very sensitive and 11 sensitive from the flood point of view.

Singhal added that 45 flood control rooms have been set up while 110 wireless centres, too, are operational with help from police.

Haryana witnessed a decrease in rainfall following heavy showers yesterday, particularly in the Yamunanagar and Karnal districts.

There had been an alarming increase in the level of the Yamuna, with a record 8.06 lakh cusecs flowing through Hathni Kund barrage yesterday prompting authorities to sound a high alert in districts of Karnal, Panipat, Sonipat and Faridabad.

But the water flowing through the barrage has continued to decrease and, at 10 A.M. Today, was around 1.73 lakh cusecs.

In Punjab, Amritsar (9.5 mm), Patiala (trace rains) and Nakodar (5 mm) were among the few places to receive light rains while the level of the Bhakra dam today touched 1,595.04 feet. The reservoir’s upper limit is 1,680 feet.

“There is no reason for any alarm as of now. The present level is normal for the rainy season considering that monsoon has arrived early this season,” a Bhakra Beas Management Board official said. (PTI)