New Delhi, Aug 6: Over 6,000 people are feared to have been killed in the devastating floods, cloudbursts and landslides in Uttarakhand in June, government said today.
“The scale and magnitude of the extreme event was such that more than 580 persons are confirmed to have lost their lives. Besides, another 5,474 persons who are still missing and feared to be no more,” Defence Minister A K Antony said in a statement in Lok Sabha.
Maintaining that the disaster was of “unprecedented magnitude”, he said 1.1 lakh people were evacuated to safe places in the “shortest possible time, notwithstanding widespread destruction of roads, difficult terrain and extremely hostile weather.”
This is the first time that the Centre has come out with the toll in the large-scale devastation.
Detailing the response measures taken by the state government, the Centre, armed and paramilitary forces, Antony said the IAF rescued 23,775 persons, the army 38,750 and the ITBP 33,000 from the affected areas.
While the Prime Minister announced assistance of Rs 1,000 crore during his visit to Uttarakhand on June 19, Centre has released Rs 400 crore for immediate relief and restoration measures, he said.
A Cabinet Committee, headed by the Prime Minister, was set up to provide guidelines for expeditious reconstruction and rehabilitation measures. An Inter-Ministerial Group has also been established to draw up a time-bound action plan.
As Antony read out the statement, BJP members were on their feet shouting that no funds had yet reached the state, while MPs of Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress sought a discussion on the issue.
Some slogan-shouting members carrying placards for a ‘United Andhra Pradesh' and creation of Bodoland, who were in the Well, were asked to return to their seats by Speaker Meira Kumar and other members of the House as Antony was making the statement.
The Speaker said it had already been decided to take up the Uttarakhand situation as the first issue for discussion in the House.
Observing that a central team has already visited the areas, Antony said additional funds would be released by the Centre “depending on the requirement of the state.”
Noting that the state had received 385 mm of rains during the period June 1-18 which was in excess of 440 per cent than normal, he said the state government immediately initiated rescue and relief operations, as all central ministries and agencies were mobilised to mount these efforts.
The Defence Minister said five IAF personnel, nine of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and six ITBP men had lost their lives in a helicopter crash, while two other helicopter pilots were also killed in a crash during rescue operations.
“Indeed, the region will long remember the heroic commitment and courage displayed by our armed forces and police fiorces, as also a large number civilian officials, residents and tourists who pitched in the effort,” he said.
While essential supplies like food, drinking water, medicine, kerosene and blankets were being “continuously provided by airdropping and by land routes”, 1,710 roads, power supply to 3,700 villages and drinking water schemes have been temporarily restored and implemented.
Point-to-point telephone communication has been restored in the affected areas of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Barkot and Harsil and over 100 satellite phones made available to various state and central agencies, Antony said.
He assured the House that the Centre would continue to support the state government for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction and to ensure that the state was “better equipped to handle such crises.”