Dehradun: At least 22 people were killed following cloudburst and landslides as heavy rains lashed Pithoragarh and Chamoli districts of Uttarakhand, officials said on Friday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat have expressed their grief over the loss of life.
More than two dozen people remained untraced. NDRF teams have been rushed to the affected areas and additional teams have also been kept on alert.
"As many as 25 people have been trapped in the debris following landslides in Bastia village of Kanalichhina block in Pithoragarh district. Bodies of 13 persons have been recovered by the district administration team with the help of local people," a police official said.
"In Chamoli district, nine people have died and six others are missing," he added.
Chief Minister Harish Rawat has asked officials to camp in the affected areas and ensure that there is no dearth of ration. He also said that helicopters will be provided to ferry the injured to the hospitals. "We are saddened by the news of the deaths. A compensation of Rs two lakh has been announced for the kin of each of the deceased," Rawat said.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Singh spoke to Rawat and took stock of the situation.
"Spoke to CM U'khand Shri Harish Rawat regarding the situation post the cloud burst in the state. Centre is providing all possible assistance," Singh tweeted.
He said NDRF teams have been rushed to the areas affected by the cloudburst and additional teams of NDRF were on standby. "I am deeply pained at loss of precious lives in Uttarakhand due to flash floods. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families," he said.
Flooding has been reported in many areas of the state when the Alaknanda river rose above the danger level-mark after rainfall of up to 54 mm was received in the last 24 hours.
Officials said a cloudburst in Pithoragarh led to severe inundation in the region, causing hardship to the people. Large tracts of agricultural fields were inundated in Suva village of Dharchula area and three bridges linking the village were washed away.
The Thal-Munsyari road was cut-off and dozens of vehicles remained stranded on both sides.
The Rishikesh-Badrinath National Highway was disrupted at many places between Nandprayag and Badrinath due to landslides. The entry of heavy vehicles was halted on the Kedarnath highway following a landslide at Gangolgaon.
All major rivers in the hilly tracts were in spate. An alert about heavy rains in the next 72 hours has been issued in Nainital, Udhamsingh Nagar, Champawat, Almora, Pauri, Haridwar, Tehri and Dehradun districts. The communication network has been severely damaged at several places.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday expressed grief over the loss of lives caused by cloudburst and heavy rain in Uttarakhand.
“I am grieved by the loss of lives caused due to cloudburst and heavy rain in parts of Uttarakhand. Condolences to bereaved families," Modi said in a statement.
"My prayers are with those injured. I hope normalcy returns to the rain-affected areas at the earliest,” the Prime Minister said.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday batted for preserving rivers and protecting the Himalayas in the aftermath of the Uttarakhand cloudburst . "Concerned state government and central home ministry... they are already on the job but this is why we need to preserve our rivers and we should not encroach on river belts and also preserve Himalayas," Javadekar told the media.
"As we know climate change has increased the frequency of certain events. Narendra Modi government has for the first time after Independence allotted Rs 100 crore to carry on studies of various aspects of Himalayan ecology and we have already started working on 27 projects in which all such disaster resilience and disaster prediction and all such aspects are there," he added.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday expressed grief at the loss of life and damage caused by a cloudburst in Uttarakhand's Chamoli and Pithoragarh district. "Through the day, grim news of the damage done by flash floods which has killed and greviously hurt many is of great despair and sorrow. Many people are missing is also news of serious disappointment," she said. Expressing solidarity with those who have lost their loved ones, Gandhi added: "Government of Uttarakhand has been asked to provide swift assistance for rescue and rehabilitation. The relatives of those missing should not lose hope and we firmly stand by the people of Chamoli and Pithoragarh, they remain in our prayers".