Govt fears 'shockingly huge' death toll in Uttarakhand, rescue ops in full swing

Uttarakhand RainA child is rescued from Guptakashi by Indian Air Force near flood-hit Kedarnath in Uttarakhand on Thursday. PTI

Rescue and relief operations were intensified today in rain-ravaged Uttarakhand as multiple agencies evacuated the worst-affected holy town of Kedarnath and other areas even as the death toll mounted continuously and is currently being counted in several hundreds.

50,000 people were still said to be stranded in various parts of the state that was hit by cloudbursts and floods in the upper reaches that left several hundred homes, rest houses and buildings in ruins and thousands of people missing.

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The official death toll still stood at 150 but Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said the casualties could run into several hundreds which will be known only when areas become accessible and water recedes.

The state government's disaster mitigation and management centre had in the morning said that the causalities could run into thousands with about 90 dharamshalas (resthouses for pilgrims) swept away in the flash floods.

In the wake of poor connectivity and communication, relatives of several pilgrims who came from outside the state were struggling to find the whereabouts of their dear ones.

The upper reaches of the state lay mute witness to the death and devastation caused by nature's fury due to Saturday's cloudburst and landslides, but a complete picture still defies estimates.

Uttarakhand Principal Secretary (Home) Om Prakash told reporters here that 1,000 people have been evacuated from different places. There are still around 200 people in and around Kedarnath valley and tomorrow their evacuation will be done.

ITBP chief Ajay Chadha, whose 1,000 men are involved in relief work in Uttarakhand, told reporters in Delhi that the worst affected Kedarnath temple area has been evacuated and there could still be about 400-500 people in the upper reaches.

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