Flood: PM, Sonia survey Uttarakhand

Last Updated: Wed, Jun 19, 2013 14:31 hrs

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday visited Uttarakhand and conducted an aerial survey of the flood-affected regions in the state.

Singh announced Rs 1000 crore as relief and rehabilitation package for the flood affected people of Uttarakhand.

He said Rs 145 crore will be given immediately to the state.

"Earlier today, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, UPA and I undertook an aerial survey of the rain and flood-affected areas of Uttarakhand," Singh said while addressing a press conference after conducting the aerial survey of the state on Wednesday.

"We saw for ourselves the large scale devastation that has been caused in the State. Our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost their lives and those who have suffered injury or loss of property in this huge tragedy," he said.

"Assessing the magnitude of the losses, both in terms of lives lost and houses destroyed, or the damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure, is an exercise that will take some more time.

"The priority for the authorities at the moment is to rescue the stranded and provide urgently needed succor to those most in need of it," he said.

"What Chairperson UPA and I saw today was most distressing," Singh said.

The Prime Minister said the government will not spare any effort in rescue and relief operations.

Singh said the death toll in the state could reach much higher in the Himalayan state.

"While the most recent estimates put the death toll at 102, it is feared that loss of lives could eventually be much higher. So far, more than 10,000 people have been rescued and are being provided food, clothing and shelter. Many persons still remain stranded. The maximum damage has been in Kedarnath and its vicinity," Singh said.

"The Central and State Governments have deployed all possible resources to deal with the immediate aftermath of the ghastly tragedy," he said.

The PM said about 5500 Jawans and Officers of the Army, 3000 men of the Border Roads Organisation and 600 ITBP personnel are engaged in relief and rescue efforts.

"Thirteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been deployed. The Air Force has deployed 18 helicopters and a C-130 aircraft. Private helicopters have also been engaged by the State Government," Singh said.

"The Central and State Governments will continue to work in close coordination to ensure that every possible effort is made not only to provide immediate relief to the affected persons but also to help them reconstruct their lives," he said.

Singh announced an ex gratia relief of Rs. 2 lakh each to the families of those who have lost their lives and Rs. 50,000 each to those who have been injured will be provided from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF).

He said: "Further, we will also provide from the PMNRF ex-gratia assistance of Rs.1 lakh each to those whose houses have been completely destroyed and Rs. 50,000 each to those whose houses have been damaged."

"I have decided to provide an amount of Rs.1000 crore to Uttarakhand for disaster relief, of which Rs. 145 crore is being released immediately. I have also directed all Central Agencies to render all possible assistance in their domain to the State," Singh said.

Even as the rescue operations continued in full swing in the North India states, including Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, where the death toll from monsoon fury touched 138, devastation engulfs most of the areas hit by torrential rains.

Flash floods, cloudbursts and landslides have claimed more than a hundred lives in Uttarakhand and almost wiped out a habitation around the Kedarnath shrine, while dozens more are reported missing.

Thousands of people still remain stranded in various parts of Uttarakhand, with the death toll in the state reaching 102. As many as 50 people have died close to the Kedarnath temple.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Wednesday assured that the Kedarnath shrine is safe.

"Major part of the temple has been hit by flash floods but the Kedarnath shrine is safe," Bahuguna told media.

"Though the relief and rescue work is in full swing it will take one year to restart the Chardham Yatra," he said.

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