UTTARAKHAND: At least 34 people are dead as heavy rainfall battered Uttarakhand for a third straight day today, leaving authorities fearing for the lives of many more who may be trapped under debris and in flooded areas.
“Prime Minister and Home Minister have been briefed on the situation. Houses, bridges etc. have been damaged. Three (Army) helicopters to be deployed for rescue operations,” Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami was quoted by news agency ANI.
“So far 34 people have died and five are missing. 4 lakh compensation will be given to the families of the deceased. Those who lost their houses will be given ₹ 1.9 lakh. All possible help to be extended to those who lost their livestock,” he said.
The Chief Minister who, with Education Minister Dhan Singh Rawat and Mr Kumar, conducted an aerial survey, also told reporters damage had been done to farmers’ crops and fields.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Mr Dhami to take stock of the situation.
In what will come as some relief going forward, the weather department has indicated a “significant reduction in rainfall activity over Uttarakhand from today”, predicting “isolated to scattered” showers.
The rains have led to scenes of chaos and disaster across the hilly state, with scary visuals emerging of roads and buildings flooded and submerged, bridges destroyed and rivers overflowing.
Picturesque Nainital was cut off after all three access roads were blocked by landslides. Roads to Kaladhungi, Haldwani and Bhawali have also been closed by debris from landslides, ANI reported.
Eleven deaths were reported today; seven people died after house collapse incidents in the Mukteshwar and Khairna areas of Nainital and one person was swept away in Udham Singh Nagar.
Five were reported Monday, including three labourers from Nepal who, according to news agency PTI, were staying near Lansdowne when they were buried alive by rubble flowing down from a field above.
The two other deaths from Monday came after a house collapsed in Champawat district, where an under-construction bridge (over the Chalthi river) has been washed away due to a rise in water levels.
Two will be sent to the Nainital region and the third to Garhwal to aid in rescue of stranded people.
The iconic Nainital lake has overflowed after more than 500mm of rain in 24 hours meant water levels surged to a record high. The famous Mall Road and Naina Devi temple have been flooded, and a hostel was damaged by landslides. People desperately trying to warn a motorcyclist from crossing a bridge, which is beginning to break up, over the Gaula river in Haldwani district. Two-three men can be seen and heard shouting to alert the two-wheeler driver who, thankfully, sees the danger and retreats.
What is scarier is the collapse of the bridge itself, which is filmed in the same video. In 50 seconds the crack in the bridge widens and slowly breaks up the structure, driven by the force of the flooded river.
“We got information about an elephant stuck on an island in a river. A team was sent to the spot and rescued him. He has been sent to the forest and we are keeping a track of his movements,” Sandeep Kumar, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) said.
The guests look on forlornly as the entire building is submerged, with floating cars offering a vague indication of where the carpark was.
A third shows the might of the rains – the Ramganga river that flows through the park is now a muddy brown maelstrom that threatens to consume the entire hotel. According to ANI there were 100 people stuck at the Lemon Tree (located between Ramnagar and Ranikhet) and all have been rescued.
The park itself is experiencing massive flooding, with what were once placid streams now raging torrents of fast-flowing water, washing away almost anything and anyone in its way.
The vehicle had been washed away in a landslide and had become wedged between some rocks near the Badrinath highway, with powerful water currents threatening to overpower and destroy it.
The car was ultimately pulled to safety by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). A video shows a bright orange NDRF rescue boat – anchored to a tow rope to prevent it too from being swept away – rescuing people stranded on top of a brick building.
“Heavy rains in Uttarakhand… Flooding at some places… 10 teams of NDRF deployed… day & night ops on… citizens being evacuated safely,” Mr Pradhan tweeted.
As the state battles to regain a measure of control, the operation of vehicles to Himalayan temples has been temporarily suspended. In addition, passenger vehicles cannot cross the bridge over the Chandrabhaga river or ford the Tapovan, Lakshman Jhoola and Muni-ki-Reti Bhadrakali barriers.
The Badrinath National Highway in Chamoli district has been completely blocked due to debris at seven places following incessant rains in the last 48 hours, the district administration said today.
As a precautionary measure, the Badrinath Char Dham Yatra has been halted, and passengers en route to Badrinath Temple were stopped at safe places.
The Chief Minister has appealed to pilgrims to defer their journey till the weather normalises.
All schools remain closed and there is a ban on trekking, mountaineering, and camping activities in high-altitude areas, including the Nanda Devi biosphere reserve and various forest divisions.