Landslides, flash floods damage roads in Uttarakhand

September 23rd, 2010 - 6:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Dehradun, Sep 23 (IANS) Widespread landslides and flash floods triggered by last week’s torrential rains in Uttarakhand have cut off large parts of the Himalayan state and left hundreds of tourists and pilgrims stranded, including on the Mansarovar route.
The landslides and flash floods have claimed at least 68 lives since Sunday.

As many as 170 major and minor roads have been severely damaged, leading to complete disruption of traffic in the mountainous districts of Chamoli, Uttarkashi, Bageshwar, Nainital, Almora, Tehri Garhwal and Pithoragarh districts.

Even the main road connecting the plains to the popular hill station Nainital is closed to traffic, while the Delhi-Dehradun and Mussoorie route is also badly damaged.

Hundreds of tourists and pilgrims are stranded in different places including the Mansarovar route. “Several Mansarovar tourists were halted in Pithoragarh and advised not to proceed further. A bus carrying foreign pilgrims on the ‘char dham’ yatra (four pilgrimages) was stranded in Uttarkashi for the past three days,” an official said.

However, there was some respite for a large number of villages downstream of Tehri dam on account of absence of any heavy downpour upstream since Monday. Earlier, the rising waters of the gigantic reservoir of Tehri dam had already submerged or inundated a large number of low-lying villages in Uttar Kashi district.

According to an official spokesman, “despite no rain for the past four days, the level of the Tehri dam had not gone below the danger mark of 830 metres”.

While both power and drinking water supply was adversely affected in large parts of the hilly districts, extensive damage to crop was reported in the rich vast plains across Udham Singh Nagar and Haridwar districts.

The state which draws lakhs of tourists every year from different corners of the country and abroad to the popular pilgrimage centres - Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri - was now being avoided by them. “Not a single tourist has been able to come to any of these places over the past one week since rains have caused deep cracks and washed away parts of key roads in the region,” a senior official of the state tourism department told IANS Thursday.

According to a spokesman of the state disaster management department, “only three major roads functional at the moment are Dehradun-New Tehri, Pratap Nagar-Peepal Pani and Rishikesh-New Tehri.”

The scene in the interior and far-flung areas was much worse as disruption of movement on the roads had seriously affected the supply of essential commodities, including fuel, vegetables, and even bread.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank has urged the central government to provide a special assistance package of Rs.21,000 crore to enable the flood-ravaged state to spring back to its feet.

As many as 172 people have been reported dead and 68 missing since the outbreak of the current monsoon in June.

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