34 Dead As Rain Slams Uttarakhand, Hundreds Rescued

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced compensation for those killed.

Rain in Uttarakhand: The weather department has issued a 'red alert' for Uttarakhand

Highlights

  • PM Modi spoke to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami
  • 300 people were rescued by the NDRF
  • All schools remain closed and there is a ban on trekking, and camping
New Delhi:

At least 34 people are dead as heavy rainfall battered Uttarakhand for a third straight day on Tuesday, leaving authorities fearing for the lives of many more who may be trapped under debris and in flooded areas.

"Prime Minister and Home Minister have been briefed on the situation. Houses, bridges etc. have been damaged. Three (Army) helicopters to be deployed for rescue operations," Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami was quoted by news agency ANI.

"So far 34 people have died and five are missing. Rs 4 lakh compensation will be given to the families of the deceased. Those who lost their houses will be given Rs 1.9 lakh. All possible help to be extended to those who lost their livestock," he said.

The Chief Minister who, with Education Minister Dhan Singh Rawat and Mr Kumar, conducted an aerial survey, also told reporters damage had been done to farmers' crops and fields.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Mr Dhami to take stock of the situation.

In what will come as some relief going forward, the weather department has indicated a "significant reduction in rainfall activity over Uttarakhand from Tuesday", predicting "isolated to scattered" showers.

The rains have led to scenes of chaos and disaster across the hilly state, with scary visuals emerging of roads and buildings flooded and submerged, bridges destroyed and rivers overflowing.

Picturesque Nainital was cut off after all three access roads were blocked by landslides, but the connectivity was restored later in the day. Roads to Kaladhungi, Haldwani and Bhawali were also been closed by debris from landslides, ANI reported.

Eleven deaths were reported on Tuesday; seven people died after house collapse incidents in the Mukteshwar and Khairna areas of Nainital and one person was swept away in Udham Singh Nagar.

Five were reported Monday, including three labourers from Nepal who, according to news agency PTI, were staying near Lansdowne when they were buried alive by rubble flowing down from a field above.

The two other deaths from Monday came after a house collapsed in Champawat district, where an under-construction bridge (over the Chalthi river) has been washed away due to a rise in water levels.

Apart from the state and national disaster response forces, the Army has also been called to action, with three Army helicopters set to join rescue and relief efforts.

Two will be sent to the Nainital region and the third to Garhwal to aid in rescue of stranded people.

Images and videos of the floods circulated on social media show frightening scenes.

The iconic Nainital lake has overflowed after more than 500mm of rain in 24 hours meant water levels surged to a record high.

Visuals from ANI this morning showed water rushing into nearby houses and streets. The famous Mall Road and Naina Devi temple have been flooded, and a hostel was damaged by landslides.

More visuals from Nainital, shared by Congress leader BV Srinivas, showed Army personnel braving the currents and forming a human chain to rescue stranded shopkeepers.

A cloudburst over the village of Ramgarh in Nainital this morning injured some people.

Another video from ANI shows people desperately trying to warn a motorcyclist from crossing a bridge, which is beginning to break up, over the Gaula river in Haldwani district. Two-three men can be seen and heard shouting to alert the two-wheeler driver who, thankfully, sees the danger and retreats.

What is scarier is the collapse of the bridge itself, which is filmed in the same video. In 50 seconds the crack in the bridge widens and slowly breaks up the structure, driven by the force of the flooded river.

It wasn't just people who were left stranded and frightened by the floods and the landslides; a video emerged showing a lone elephant battling against the rushing floodwaters of the Gaula river after getting trapped on a tiny piece of land in the middle of the water body.

"We got information about an elephant stuck on an island in a river. A team was sent to the spot and rescued him. He has been sent to the forest and we are keeping a track of his movements," Sandeep Kumar, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) said. 

Gates at the Nanak Sagar Dam in the state's Udham Singh Nagar, floodgates have been opened to release excess water.

Images shared by photographer Mustafa Quraishi, an independent photojournalist previously with the Associated Press, according to his Instagram bio, show stranded guests on the roof of the posh Lemon Tree Hotel near the Jim Corbett National Park.

The guests look on forlornly as the entire building is submerged, with floating cars offering a vague indication of where the carpark was.

Another visual shows a tractor being pressed into service to ferry people away from the Lemon Tree.

A third shows the might of the rains - the Ramganga river that flows through the park is now a muddy brown maelstrom that threatens to consume the entire hotel. According to ANI there were 100 people stuck at the Lemon Tree (located between Ramnagar and Ranikhet) and all have been rescued. 

All three of Mr Quraishi's images were posted an hour ago.

The park itself is experiencing massive flooding, with what were once placid streams now raging torrents of fast-flowing water, washing away almost anything and anyone in its way.

ANI also shared a video showing the hair-raising rescue of a car, with people inside

The vehicle had been washed away in a landslide and had become wedged between some rocks near the Badrinath highway, with powerful water currents threatening to overpower and destroy it.

The car was ultimately pulled to safety by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

Other visuals, posted by NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) chief Satya Pradhan, show villages and towns almost washed away by the strength of the floods.

A video shows a bright orange NDRF rescue boat - anchored to a tow rope to prevent it too from being swept away - rescuing people stranded on top of a brick building.

"Heavy rains in Uttarakhand... Flooding at some places... 10 teams of NDRF deployed... day & night ops on... citizens being evacuated safely," Mr Pradhan tweeted.

The state's disaster response teams are also in action and this morning rescued 22 pilgrims stuck while returning from the Kedarnath temple.

As the state battles to regain a measure of control, the operation of vehicles to Himalayan temples has been temporarily suspended. In addition, passenger vehicles cannot cross the bridge over the Chandrabhaga river or ford the Tapovan, Lakshman Jhoola and Muni-ki-Reti Bhadrakali barriers.

The Badrinath National Highway in Chamoli district has been completely blocked due to debris at seven places following incessant rains in the last 48 hours, the district administration said.

As a precautionary measure, the Badrinath Char Dham Yatra has been halted, and passengers en route to Badrinath Temple were stopped at safe places. 

The Chief Minister has appealed to pilgrims to defer their journey till the weather normalises.

All schools remain closed and there is a ban on trekking, mountaineering, and camping activities in high-altitude areas, including the Nanda Devi biosphere reserve and various forest divisions..

With input from ANI, PTI

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