Rain stops in Uttarakhand, nightmare continues

It has been nearly three days since heavy rains wreaked havoc in the hill state, but even on Thursday India's top disaster management agency, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), could not give a time-frame within which those stranded could be rescued.

"Bad weather coupled with logistical constraints are hampering rescue work. There are huge landslides happening. We are trying our best," said NDMA vice-chairman MS Reddy.

Around 50 major landslides have been reported in just four roads in the last two days.

"Only 100 people have been air-lifted from Badrinath so far," said Dharmender Pandey, a Delhi government official who has been stranded at the shrine since Saturday. "There are 10,000 people here and there does not seem to be any way of getting out of this place".

An NDMA official, who did not want to be named, admitted that they were functioning under difficult conditions.

"The makeshift helipads had to be built after the June 16 tragedy. Not more than one helicopter can land at a time. The local public health centers are ill-equipped to handle so many pilgrims. In fact, the number of people visiting the char dhams is much more than what the administration can handle," he said.

Despite repeated reminders after the flash floods of 2011 and 2012 and large parts of the state being earthquake prone, Uttarakhand has failed to get its act together unlike 16 other states that have constituted their own state disaster response forces.

"We have been telling states to train disaster management volunteers at the village level," said Shivaji Singh, senior consultant with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

The NDMA did not get any land from the state government to set up a training centre which meant that NDRF personnel had to be rushed from Ghaziabad on June 16.

They could reach Kedarnath and Rudraprayag only on Wednesday. That apart, Uttarakhand does not have a public alert system for flash floods and cloudbursts unlike Himachal Pradesh.


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