New Delhi/Dehradun: Amidst BJP’s demand that the Uttarakhand government be dismissed for mishandling the disaster, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Monday tried his best to make amends.

Briefing the media, he said a statutory body would be set up to oversee relief and rehabilitation efforts in the worst-hit areas. "An Uttarakhand rehabilitation and reconstruction authority will be established to decide planning and development of the state," Bahuguna said.

He said everyone affected by the flash floods and landslides in the state will be given compensation. "Everyone who suffered losses from owners of small kiosks to hotels will be given compensation,” Bahuguna said.

He brought the focus of the relief and rehabilitation work on the locals by announcing measures that would benefit the victims of the flash floods and landslides.

"The government has decided on compensation for all commercial establishments, from small dhaba vendors to hotels. Power bills have been waived off for affected families. Free ration will be distributed in villages," the Chief Minister said.

Bahuguna also announced special compensation for students and farmers. "Rs 500 each will be given to students in the flood-affected families. A higher rate of compensation will be given to sugarcane farmers,” he said.

He also thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for staying in touch with the state administration and promising all assistance for the hilly state.

900 yet to be evacuated from Badrinath

Even fifteen days after the Uttarakhand disaster, 900 pilgrims and locals in Badrinath are still stranded while 3,000 people remained missing, as authorities grappled with the grim task of extricating dead bodies lying under heaps of debris and disposing them.

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Nearly 1,489 pilgrims were on Sunday taken to safety from Badrinath, 874 by air and 615 by road, an Uttarakhand government official said, while adding that only 300 pilgrims and 600 locals remained in the holy town with adequate food and medical care.

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Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said a 200-member team consisting of officials of various departments, including police, health, animal husbandry experts and sanitation, is being sent along with equipment provided by the NDRF to both Kedarnath and Rambada to extricate the bodies from the debris and expedite the process of their disposal.

Rains prevent rescuers from extricating bodies
    
Rains on Sunday prevented rescuers from reaching Kedarnath town to extricate bodies buried in the rubble even as the National Disaster Management said the death toll could be ‘huge’ as they gain access to areas ravaged by the flash flood a fortnight ago.

"National Disaster Relief Force team had planned to go to Kedarnath town with heavy equipment to extricate the bodies, but the heavy lift helicopters could not take off with the equipment due to bad weather," M Sashidhar Reddy, Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), told reporters.
    
When asked about the death toll, Reddy said Uttarakhand Speaker had put the figure around 10,000, but right now it's not possible to give the exact numbers.
    
"I can only say that the manner in which the disaster occurred, it indicates huge number of deaths," he said.
    
While Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has stated the death toll may cross the 1,000 mark, the state Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal had said on Saturday that the figure may be more than 10,000. Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had said the toll was 900 till Friday night.

0ver 18,000 airlifted by IAF since June 17
    
Indian Air Force has airlifted over 18,000 persons and dropped more than 3 lakh kg of relief material in flood-hit Uttarakhand since June 17 in its biggest ever helicopter operation for rescue and relief in the state.
    
"IAF has airlifted a total of 18,424 persons, flying a total of 2,137 sorties and dropping/ landing a total of 3,36,930 kgs of relief material and equipment," it said in a statement.
    
In its rescue and relief operations for 'Op Rahat' that were undertaken since Sunday morning, a total of 749 persons were airlifted, flying a total of 93 sorties and dropped about 12,000 kgs of relief material and equipment, it said.

(JPN/Agencies)

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