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Thursday, June 20, 2013

flash floods in Uttarakhand ~ thousands stranded - relief measures on...

The story of Yayati  is mentioned in Bhagavata Puranam as also in Maha Baratham. Yayati,  the son of king Nahusha is considered to be the ancestor of Pandavas and one of ancestors of Pandavas. He ruled over this place.  It is here that the most important rivers of the Nation ~ the Ganges and Yamuna originate. It has the religiously important places of Badrinath and Kedarnath.  It also has the  Valley of Flowers, a Unesco World Heritage Site known for the variety and rarity of the flowers and plants……… but is in news making all of us sad.

It is Uttarakhand known  "Land of the Gods" due to the many holy Hindu temples and pilgrimage centres.   This became state in Nov 1999. The state is divided into two divisions, Garhwal and Kumaon, with a total of 13 districts. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, the largest city in the region, which is a railhead. The high court of the state is in Nainital.  With pilgrims and tourists stranded in flash floods in Uttarakahand, several state governments have rushed teams to the hill state to help bring back the affected persons and also announced aid.  As flood waters ebbed and rain's fury eased on Wednesday, snatches of Uttarakhand's worst natural disaster were emerging. The death toll, officially placed at 150 on the basis of body count, could be frighteningly higher. Estimates were running in thousands. Chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who described the calamity as a " Himalayan tsunami", said, "Very heavy casualties are feared."

Thousands of people have been rescued but the inability of rescue teams to navigate disaster-struck areas has left over 60,000 people stranded in Uttarakhand. Reports state that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sanctioned  Rs. 1,000 crore to the State for disaster mitigation and announced Rs.2 lakh for the families of the dead and Rs. 50,000 for the injured. “Kedarnath shrine is safe but it is under a lot of slush,” said Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, adding it would require at least one year to clear the slush. “The shrine will remain out of bounds for pilgrims for one year,” the Chief Minister said.  The Hindu reports  that people have been starving for four days now at Gaurikund and Munkatia, which is about 3 km from Gaurikund. Helicopters are airdropping the food aimlessly and people suffering from diabetes and heart problems do not have access to healthcare services. The weather has improved as rains have stopped at many places.

The Nation is united as it fights one of the worst natural disasters. It is stated that rescue operations by IAF choppers would resume once the weather conditions at Jolly Grant airport improve. There are also 10 choppers on standby at Sarsawa. The main focus for rescue operations is reported to be Kedarnath valley, where according to estimates, thousands of people are stranded.

Australia has updated its travel advisory for India following recent severe weather conditions in Uttrakhand, asking its citizens to monitor media for information and follow the advice of local authorities. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) revised the advisory on Tuesday saying, “It contains new information under Natural disasters, severe weather and climate.” “There are reports of landslides between Uttarkashi and Gangotri. If you are in the affected area, monitor media for information on your safety and follow the advice of local authorities),” it said. Back at home, is a news that does not make good reading:  Firstpost quoting Indian Express reports that in such a state of affairs comes the news of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna heading to Switzerland next week ! According to a report in the Indian Express, the Chief Minister has a trip that was planned before the flash floods in the state in which he was to visit the European nation in the company of his wife and some state officials. Given that its an an official trip, Bahuguna’s office had sought clearance from the Ministry of External Affairs.

After the floods ravaged the state, the Ministry had expected Bahuguna’s office to inform them that he would cancel the trip, but as of Wednesday they had not received any word to that effect. Therefore the Ministry has gone ahead and cleared the trip. So was this just a case of his office forgetting to inform the Ministry of External Affairs, or does Bahaguna really think that the situation is so under control that he can fly out? Or subsequently does he think that he has nothing to contribute by staying in his flood ravaged state?  Vijay Bahuguna, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, is son of Late Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna who was a freedom fighter and eminent politician in India. Vijay Bahuguna is a member of the 15th Lok Sabha of India. He was also a member of the 14th Lok Sabha. He is first ex-High Court judge to become chief minister of a state.

Better news to hear is that the road Uttarkashi has been reopened and thousands are on their way out.  The Army has sent a hundred paratroupers to Gaurikund to help rescue stranded pilgrims. Medical help is also being provided to those rescued.

India's summer monsoon will become highly unpredictable if the world's average temperature rises by two degree Celsius in the next two-three decades, a scientific report commissioned by the World Bank says. Depicting life in a not-too-distant future shaped by already present warming trends, the new report warns that by the 2040s, India will see a significant reduction in crop yields because of extreme heat. The report, prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics and peer reviewed by 25 scientists worldwide, says the consequences for South Asia of a warming climate are even worse if global temperatures increased by an average of four degree Celsius by 2090.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

News collated from various souces ~ photo courtesy : dainik bhaskar.

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