As the rains and cloudburst ravaged Uttarakhand on 15th June, thousands of pilgrims who had embarked their journey to the holy places of Kedarnath and Badrinath were left shell shocked by the pernicious circumstances that they ended up facing. The state received 313 mm rainfall from 14th June to 17th June, which is 375 per cent above the normal benchmark of 65.9 mm rainfall received every year. Days of torrential rain, hunger and epidemic have already seized the lives of hundreds of people, while more bodies are expected to be buried under the debris.
HomeMinister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters in Delhi recently, The death toll has crossed 680 and is likely to rise to about 1000, though 73,000 people have been evacuated through the multi-agency operations in action. The evacuation process is being intensified in order to save the 15,000 people who remain stranded in the impacted areas of Uttarakhand Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri.
No body or authority could have handled a disaster of the scale and magnitude being faced here, Vijay Bahuguna, CM of Uttarakhand, told CNN-IBNs Karan Thapar on Devils Advocate, adding this kind of disaster has never happened in the Himalayan history.
It will take a long time to rebuild Kedarnath. Chances of the Kedarnath Yatra taking place for at least next two years are grim, the CM informed reporters.
Lives and property have suffered tremendously due to continuous rain and cloudbursts. More than 150 bridges and 1300 roads connecting parts of Uttarakhand have been damaged, some of them beyond the point of repair. The downpour has washed away a number of dharamshalas in the afflicted areas. The Kedarnath Temple in Rudraprayag has been shattered to pieces, and Kedarnath is claimed to be the worst hit area. Houses in Rishikesh and Uttarakshi have been submerged under the flooded river Ganga. In all, about 1700 houses have been destroyed.
Although no one is to be blamed for natural calamities, the amount of destruction caused could have been reduced by some degree if the concerned authorities would have formulated plans beforehand. TheNational Disaster Management Actshould have made the lessons in disaster management available in local languages, so as to train the locals for such disasters. The NDMA requires restructuring in order to minimize damage and be better prepared in the future.
Compared to the prevention strategies, the evacuation operations are being carried out appreciably well. The Defence Ministry has deployed 61 aircrafts, including the Mi-26 (the worlds largest chopper) in order to carry out the rescue operations effectively. Western Air Command sent the C-130J aircraft, which has a 25 bed Hospital and can treat over 100 people in one day. It runs for 7 days without needing any back-up.
The Army and Air Force are distributing free food packets and medicines to the stranded. They have set up a number of free medical camps in the concerned areas, and are helping people to traverse difficult and dangerous terrain. All these operations are being vigorously carried out across 100 towns and villages of Uttarakhand.
The Indian Railway Authorities, in collaboration with the state government, have also stepped in to offer a helping hand by setting up a task force which has arranged special trains with catering facilities to safely carry the pilgrims to their destinations. The task force consists of four people who are monitoring the situation at all times.
The government is being offered generous monetary help from various organizations and institutions all across the country. President Pranab Mukherjee has decided to devote his one monthly salary of Rs. 1.5 lakh to the flood victims.The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) also announced that they will be offering Rs. 3 lakh to the Chief Ministers Relief Fund.
Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi, sent trucks loaded with seven tonnes of non-perishable, ready to eat food materials on Friday, 21st June. The city government is contributing a total amount of Rs. 10 crore to help the victims, she informed in an interview with IBN Live. Not only Delhi, but Tamil Nadu government has also offered a sum of Rs. 5 crore.
Social networking sites and internet have proved to be a boon in this scenario. On 21st June,Google launched a map applicationthat shows the different areas affected by flood and helps locating relief centers. This map is an early version aimed at providing quick information, such as, places affected, relief centres and road closures, Jayanth Mysore, Google APAC Senior Product Manager, informed through a blog post. Google has also launched a version of the existing Google applicationPerson Finderthat allows people to post and look for relatives or friends by their names. It also offers information on missing people in flood-affected areas in Uttarakhand. The application has already helped trace more than 150 missing people.
The Uttarakhand governmenthas set up a pagethat provides helpline numbers and information about missing and rescued people.A page called Help Uttarakhand 2013 floods has been created on Facebook by some friends whose parents were missing. It displays scanned lists of people who have been found and photos of those who are still missing. Prime Minister Manmohan SinghsTwitter account has been very active ever since.His appeal to citizens calling for supportdeserves special mention.