Dehradun, June 19 : At least 1113 people have died in the flash floods triggered by incessant rains in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, while the toll in the calamity is likely to rise manifold as 500 people are still reported to be missing. The famous Kedarnath shrine has been submerged under mud and slush and there is widespread devastation near the temple.
Kukhimath SDM Rakesh Tewari told reporters after his return from Himalayan shrine of Kedarnarth that 50 bodies are lying in areas adjacent to the shine.
“We are right now concentrating on rescuing those who are alive,” the officer said.
Some of the pilgrims who returned from the shrine after being stranded there for two days said that Kedarnathpuri has been totally damaged by the flood.
Barring the Kedarnath shrine and some of the structures adjoining it, most of the residential rings of the temple are damaged.
Bodies of pilgrims are lying in debris of damaged houses, the pilgrims said.
The Kedarnath shrine, one of the four holy dhams, in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand bore the brunt of torrential rains. About 500 people, including several pilgrims, are said to be missing in the area.
More than 70,000 pilgrims are stranded on the Char Dham route.
The death toll may rise significantly once water recedes and relief teams are able to access the affected areas. A portion of the Kedarnath temple compound was washed away but authorities said no damages were reported to the structure itself.
The Ram Bada area, a busy spot near the temple, has been completely submerged and was not visible from rescue choppers. Army Central Command officials said that nearly 6,000 to 8,000 people are stranded in Kedarnath, 2,500 in Hemkund Sahib and around 8,000 in Badrinath.
Flash floods, cloudbursts and landslips have so far claimed 131 lives in northern India. Thousands have been displaced in Uttar Pradesh where several rivers are in spate.
The death toll in Uttarakhand has reached 102. Rudraprayag district was the worst hit with 20 people 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 landslides and damage to the road network.
“More persons are feared dead at Tejam in Pithoragarh district,” Chief Secretary Subahash Kumar told reporters here this evening.
About 500 pilgrims stranded at Kedarnath were ferried to safety at Guptkashi today as rescue operations picked up momentum two days after incessant rains wreaked havoc in the hill state, he said.
However, he expressed inability to give a precise figure of casualties in Pithoragarh saying choppers cannot be landed at many places due to heavy flooding.
He said the possibility of casualties “rising manifold” cannot be ruled out as many places with crowded settlements in the worst hit Rudraprayag district are heavily inundated, so much that they cannot even be seen from the choppers that were flown over them to take stock of the situation.
Massive casualties are feared at the thickly populated Rambara in the district where nothing is visible from above,Garhwal Commissioner Subardhan who was also present at the joint press conference said.