Uttarakhand lawmaker says 10,000 dead as over 800 rescued from Badrinath

Dehradun/New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) 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.

Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal caused a flutter with his claim of the death toll having crossed 10,000.

Kunjwal told reporters that during his earlier tour of the flood-devastated areas of the state he had put the death toll at 5,000-6,000. "But after hearing accounts of the people coming down from the mountains and that of people calling me up and seeing the piles of bodies, I feel the toll could be well over 10,000."

Home Minister Shinde clarified that the toll was 900 according to the information with him. He added that the complete figure on the deaths was not out yet and it would take some days for that.

Shinde said 105,000 people had been evacuated so far from the flood-hit areas.

"We will do combing operations now to see if anyone is left out.. the roads are broken, there is no communication.. it will take some days,' he added.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has termed Kunjwal's claim as "inaccurate".

IAF choppers rescued more people from Badrinath where pilgrims were stranded.

The IAF choppers are also air dropping food supplied to stranded villages in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, which were cut off after the floods.

A total of 26 IAF aircraft formed part of the operations Saturday, said officials.

The IAF airlifted the last 12 pilgrims from Harsil. "There is no more evacuation to be done from there. Pilgrims from Harsil have been completely evacuated," an official told IANS.

The IAF airlifted 842 pilgrims from Badrinath and will continue its operations in the sector for the next two days, he added.

On Friday, Home Minister Shinde had said the rescue efforts would be completed in another fortnight.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has put the number of villages hit by the tragedy at over 2,000.

The incessant and intense rains that hit Uttarakhand over three days from June 14 triggered flash floods and landslides, leading to hundreds of deaths, while hundreds are missing.

According to reports, a team of experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is to visit the Kedarnath temple to assess the damage to the ancient structure due to floods.

In a related development, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Saturday met the family members of Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel Akhilesh Kumar Singh who was among the 20 people killed in Tuesday's chopper crash in Uttarakhand.

Gandhi attended the cremation of the junior officer and is said to have assured all help to the family. The MI-17 V5 helicopter crashed with 20 personnel on board. Those killed included personnel from the IAF, the ITBP and the National Disaster Response Force.

The Andhra Pradesh government has announced Rs.50 crore for relief works in Uttarakhand and for construction of four pilgrim amenities centres.

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