Uttarakhand floods: Death toll uncertain, minister says 10,000 just an estimate
Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Even as Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has said that the exact number of those dead in the state can never be known, state Health Minister Surinder Singh Negi on Sunday spoke on the lines of Assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, who had pegged the death toll at 10,000.
According to the Uttarakhand health minister, the 10,000 figure was an estimate as several bodies remained buried under debris.
The minister said the estimates are based on what evacuated people have recounted to the rescue teams and to government officials.
"He (state assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal) has given an estimated figure. At the moment, it is an estimate. It can go down, or it could go up. It is too early to give the exact number of deaths in the tragedy that has completely devastated the state," Negi said.
This came after Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna saying that it is practically impossible to know the exact number of those dead.
When asked about the fear of rising death toll, the chief minister said, "We will never know the exact number of those dead and the number of people who have been buried or washed away."
Uttarakhand assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal had claimed that the situation suggested that the death toll could cross 10,000. However, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Saturday pegged the death toll at 900.
Kunjwal had said that during his earlier tour of the flood-devastated areas of the state he had put the death toll at 5,000-6,000. "But after hearing accounts of the people coming down from the mountains and that of people calling me up and seeing the piles of bodies, I feel the toll could be well over 10,000."
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna termed Kunjwal's claim as "inaccurate".
Home Minister Shinde clarified that the toll was 900 according to the information with him. He added that the complete figure on the deaths was not out yet and it would take some days for that.
Shinde said 105,000 people had been evacuated so far from the flood-hit areas.
"We will do combing operations now to see if anyone is left out...the roads are broken, there is no communication...it will take some days,' he added.
Meanwhile, Indian Air Force choppers evacuated over 800 stranded people from Badrinath as it continued to rain in the state.
IAF choppers rescued more people from Badrinath where pilgrims were stranded.
The IAF choppers are also air dropping food supplied to stranded villages in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, which were cut off after the floods.
A total of 26 IAF aircraft formed part of the operations Saturday, said officials.
The IAF airlifted the last 12 pilgrims from Harsil. "There is no more evacuation to be done from there. Pilgrims from Harsil have been completely evacuated," an official said.
The IAF airlifted 842 pilgrims from Badrinath and will continue its operations in the sector for the next two days, he added.
On Friday, Home Minister Shinde had said the rescue efforts would be completed in another fortnight.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has put the number of villages hit by the tragedy at over 2,000.
The incessant and intense rains that hit Uttarakhand over three days from June 14 triggered flash floods and landslides, leading to hundreds of deaths, while hundreds are missing.
According to reports, a team of experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is to visit the Kedarnath temple to assess the damage to the ancient structure due to floods.
With PTI inputs