Rescue ops reach last stage

Almora/Dehradun: Confusion prevailed over the death toll in the Uttarakhand rain-flood tragedy with the state assembly speaker claiming over 10,000 people had perished as Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said 900 people had died. Indian Air Force choppers evacuated over 800 stranded people from Badrinath as it continued to rain in the state.

Kunjwal claimed in Almora that the death toll can cross 10,000.

The rescue operations have reached their last stages and security forces are now focusing on saving around 2000 people who are reported to be still trapped in the upper reaches.

“Earlier when I returned from a tour of Garhwal region I believed the casualty figure could be 4,000 to 5,000. But now as per my information and bodies being seen by the people, I can say the figure can cross the 10,000 mark,” he said.

In Mumbai, Shinde said, “According to my information, last night the toll was 900.”

Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who has stated that over 1,000 people may have perished in the calamity, trashed Kunjwal’s claim, saying it is incorrect and that true figures will come out once the debris have been cleared.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which is assisting in the rescue and relief operations, put the death toll at 580 till Friday evening.

Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar said a clearer picture will emerge in a couple of days as the figure of missing persons, said to be around 3,000, is being ascertained following detection of several cases of duplication.

Rescue work in Badrinath area resumed during the day after some delay due to bad weather and 1,313 pilgrims including some villagers were evacuated — 600 by helicopters and the remaining by road, Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar told reporters in Dehradun. He said about 500 people still remain to be evacuated. Efforts are also being made on a war-footing to ensure supply of essential relief material to over 600 villages in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, which are cut off after the floods. 2,379 metric tonnes of wheat and 2,875 metric tonnes of rice has so far been dispatched to these villages. (Agencies)

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