Updated: October 20, 2021 10:08:23 am
At least 25 deaths were confirmed in Nainital district on Tuesday as incessant rain continued to batter Uttarakhand, leading to floods, landslides, and massive destruction of property especially in the hills of Kumaon.
The India Meteorological Department’s (IMD’s) Dehradun centre said two weather stations in Kumaon division had received the heaviest rainfall for any 24-hour period since records began to be kept.
Aggregate data provided by district administrations showed the statewide death toll from incidents related to the rain that began on Sunday had reached 35.
(A late-night PTI report put the toll at 42, and said many people were trapped under landslide rubble and debris. The report quoted DIG Nilesh Anand Bharne as saying “the number of casualties in Kumaon region alone has crossed 40”.)
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The hill station of Nainital lay cut off on Tuesday, with all three roads leading to the town washed away by landslides.
Rain and mudslides have damaged homes and roads across town. The Mall Road that skirts the Naini lake, and the area around the famous Naina Devi temple were reported to be flooded.
Dehradun Meteorological Centre Director Bikram Singh told The Indian Express on Tuesday evening that IMD’s Mukteshwar and Pantnagar stations had got 340.8 mm and 403.2 mm of rain respectively over the preceding 24 hours.
The previous record for rain over a 24-hour period at the Mukteshwar station — which was established 124 years ago in 1897 — was 254.5 mm, recorded on September 18, 1914, Singh said.
The Pantnagar station is newer — it was set up in 1962 — and its record so far had been 228 mm on July 10, 1990, the Director said.
The time around Dussehra is peak tourist season in Nainital and the surrounding area that is dotted with mountain lakes, and is especially popular with visitors from Gujarat and West Bengal.
Information on the numbers and situation of tourists in the area was sketchy on Tuesday. A PTI report from Chhattisgarh quoted a state official as saying 55 people from Durg, including 44 women and four children, were stranded in Uttarakhand. A report from Bengaluru said the Karnataka government had established a help desk to assist pilgrims, tourists, and visitors from the state in Uttarakhand.
Around 100 people were reported to be stranded at a resort on the Ramnagar-Ranikhet Road after the overflowing Kosi river cut the area off.
Heavy rain was reported in the Ramgarh area on Tuesday morning following a cloudburst. Roads were blocked and some neighbourhoods were reported to have been cut off.
In Chaukhuta village of Nainital, at least five labourers were buried alive after their kuchcha house collapsed. Officials involved in the rescue operation, which continued for over four hours, said the deceased belonged to UP and Bihar.
Multiple teams of the national and state disaster response forces were carrying out rescue operations. Two teams of the NDRF were stationed in Uttarkashi; one each in Dehradun, Chamoli, Almora, Pithoragarh, Haridwar and Gadarpur.
Around 25-30 trekkers stranded near Gomukh were rescued by the SDRF late on Monday night, PTI reported.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami by phone on Tuesday to take stock of the damage, and relief and rescue work. The Prime Minister has promised all required help and assistance from the Centre, the state government said in a release.
On Twitter, Modi said, “I am anguished by the loss of lives due to heavy rainfall in parts of Uttarakhand. May the injured recover soon. Rescue operations are underway to help those affected. I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being.”
Dhami met with officials at the state disaster control room. The Chief Minister, accompanied by his ministerial colleague Dhan Singh Rawat and state DGP Ashok Kumar, also conducted an aerial survey of the areas affected by heavy rainfall. Directions have been issued to provide financial help to the affected people.
“The CM has directed all District Magistrates to complete the assessment of crop damage to farmers and send a report at the earliest. He has informed that three helicopters from the Army are being deployed in the areas affected by rainfall. DM Chamoli and DM Rudraprayag have been directed to ensure safety of tourists stranded on the tourist roads,” the government said in a statement.
According to reports, two of the helicopters will be sent to Nainital, and one to the Garhwal region.
Dhami has asked people not to panic as the state government works to evacuate those who are stranded. The Char Dham Yatris have been advised to stop where they are, and not go ahead until the situation is brought under control.
Later in the evening, the Chief Minister announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh for the families of those who had lost their lives in the disaster.
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