Will never know exact death toll in Uttarakhand floods: CM Bahuguna

BahuBahuguna at his house in Dehradun Saturday. PTI

The exact number of people who perished in the floods will never be known, chief minister Vijay Bahuguna said Sunday as estimates of casualties fluctuated from hundreds to several thousand.

"We will never know the exact number of the dead and the number of people buried or washed away," Bahuguna said in an interview to PTI.

The chief minister rejected assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal's claim that the death toll could cross 10,000.

"There are 500-600 bodies which are visible, not just in Kedarnath area but in the entire state," Bahuguna said. "The bodies which were lying on the streets have been taken for cremation. Bodies which are in Rambada no one can reach them, but what do we do to them so the environment is not polluted. Some chemicals and powder have to be used," he added.

Bahuguna said his government would compensate families of victims from the state "and put them on fast track". "As for those from other states," Bahuguna said, "they should lodge complaints in their state. If their states confirm that this number of people who had come on pilgrimage should be presumed dead, we will pay compensation to the respective chief secretaries for distribution to the victims."

The chief minister dismissed criticism of his government's handling of the situation and suggestions that it was a man-made disaster.

"There was no delay. Only because of bad weather and connectivity problems, it took time for rescue workers to reach the affected people. But more than a lakh people were evacuated without any law and order problem, so credit should go to the government," he said. "I don't agree that it is a man-made disaster. Calamities are not in our control. I cannot control tsunami, earthquake or cloudburst. What can I do in such a scenario is that I can save my people."

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