Almora devastated by floods, 36 dead in district

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ALMORA - Deaths and devastation have cast a shadow on this beautiful Uttarakhand town where not even a single family has been left untouched by the havoc wreaked by the current floods and torrential rains that have claimed 36 lives here.

Heavy rains have triggered the worst floods that Uttarakhand has seen in recent times, claiming 80 lives acros the state so far. Authorities fear the toll may go up as relief workers are busy removing debris and trying to reach out to people trapped in far-off villages.

In Almora district alone, there are over 2,200 villages, of which 20 have been totally devastated.

“We have recovered 36 bodies till today. Our evacuation work is on,” District Magistrate Subardhan, working round the clock to carry out relief work, told IANS.

What has given the district officials hope is that for the first time in the past six days there was no rain Thursday. Also, the main road linking Almora to Haldwani was opened Thursday.

This news sent a wave of relief through the townspeople, most of whose houses have been destroyed by the rains. All essential commodities, including diesel and petrol, are being brought from Haldwani.

“The road opened today and trucks have started moving from Haldwani carrying diesel and petrol. They will reach here by this evening,” added Subardhan in Almora.

According to officials, 80 bodies have been recovered till Thursday noon in the state. Of these, 36 were from Almora district alone.

Giving details about the disaster, Subardhan said the maximum impact was in Balta village in Almora district where half the village disappeared on the night of Sep 17-18.

“We have recovered 13 bodies from this small village itself. They all died in their sleep. There was a landslide and the village was completely wiped out,” he added.

Subardhan said many of the schools and colleges, that have been closed for the past week, have been turned into relief camps. Around 500 people whose homes were washed away are living in the 44 relief camps set up across the town.

Although there has been no death in the main town, many of the government as well as private bungalows have suffered damage with huge cracks, or their roofs were blown off or were flooded. Most roads have got massive crevices or just got washed away.

Hema Rawat, a housewife who lives near the famed Lala Bazar here, is cheered by the fact that the road to Haldwani has finally opened.

“If the road had not opened, we would have faced major problems. We get our ration, gas cylinders and diesel and petrol from Haldwani. My major tension was about the gas cylinder. Thank god, the road is finally opening. We will be able to get food,” Rawat told IANS.

According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), set up in Uttarakhand’s capital Dehradun, they have been able to finally reach out to more people trapped in far off places with the help of the army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and paramilitary forces.

“There was no rain since morning, but the sky is overcast. Most of the national highways are still closed. Some pilgrims bound for Kailash-Mansarovar are stuck because of landslides so we are evacuating them. We will get air support by tomorrow,” said Piyush Rautela, NDMA executive director.

After Almora, Nanital is worst affected. Nineteen deaths have been from Nanital, followed by eight in Haldwani, five in Chamoli and three in Uttarkashi.

For many villagers, there is another worry.

“Most of our paddy crop has been washed away in the floods. We don’t know what to do now,” said Ranjit Singh, who lives in Kalet, one-and-a-half kilometres from here.

He said they were able to rescue a family of seven trapped in a flooded house in the nick of time. “Their house was near the river Kosi and it was swamped by the flood waters,” he said.

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