Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Uttarakhand missing declared dead tomorrow

Nearly 4,000 people missing in the Uttarakhand disaster will be declared dead by the state tomorrow, a senior official said this evening.

“There are 3,975 people missing, including 975 locals. The number of dead (after the missing are included) is likely to be between 4,000 and 5,000,” the official said.

The missing count — and hence the casualty figure — contrasts sharply with a recent report by a UN disaster management team that put the number at 11,600.

Of the over 3,000 people from other states who have not been traced, 35 are from Bengal, according to an official from the eastern state who confirmed one death.

Over 700 of the missing are from Uttar Pradesh — among the largest batches of victims from outside the hill state. Death certificates have to be issued by Uttarakhand government agencies.

With wood dropped in Kedarnath and other affected areas soaked in the rain, debris is not being removed as cremation of bodies found underneath the debris cannot take place in this climate.

To help National Disaster Response Force and state government teams, the army is opening an alternative route to Kedarnath from Sonprayag via Gomkar, Dev Vishnu and Dhungaj Giri.

Away from the number crunching, the task of rebuilding loomed. Power has been restored to over 1,000 villages near Kedarnath and Badrinath. The connections were snapped by flash floods from the Mandakini and Alaknanda rivers.

The next step for the government is reconstruction of the state’s devastated infrastructure. The Uttarakhand government has announced the establishment of a Punarvas and Punarnirman Pradhikaran (Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority) which will be financed by the Centre. The Planning Commission is estimating losses through state’s inputs.

The Vijay Bahuguna-led Congress government had earlier set the July 10 cut-off to officially declare those missing as dead.

Officially, the number of dead stands at 580, including the 20 air force and other personnel who died in the crash of the Mi-17 V5 rescue helicopter near Kedarnath days after the June 15-17 calamity.

Officials said the number of dead may also include names of people included in the list of missing.

The findings on the missing have been mentioned in a report sent to Union home minister Sushil Shinde and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi by V.K. Duggal, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) that is part of the rescue and relief operations.

The figure has been collated after reconciling 10 sets of numbers on missing people gathered by various agencies. This includes Google, which created one such database by collecting details from loggers as well as reports from officials of various states.

But many names have figured on the lists of those missing as well as dead, posing a needle-in-a-haystack challenge for the officials trawling through the minefield of data.

A team of software experts removed duplications from the databases before reaching the figure of the nearly 4,000 people missing, home ministry sources said today.

One way of checking information was making a list of all mobile numbers used on the Kedarnath and Badrinath routes. “The state government has made one lakh calls to collect information about missing people or those who have reached their destinations safely,” said an official.

Duggal, the NDMA member, said around 170 bodies had been cremated so far. Sources said fresh rain had hampered the process of clearing debris and extricating bodies

Wednesday 10 July 2013


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