Uttarakhand landslides: 43 feared dead, India

(Source: - Hindustan Times, 9th Aug 2009)

    It was a day of grim tragedy in the twin villages of Jhakla and Leh in the remote Munsyari block in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. At least 45 were feared killed after a sudden cloudburst washed away both villages on early Saturday morning. "According to reports the incident took place around 2 am in the morning," said NS Negi, district magistrate before leaving for the spot. District administration sources said 16 men were killed in Leh village while 6 were reported killed in Jhakla. 20 women from both the villages were also
feared killed in the tragic incident. "So far, 15 bodies have been fished out of the rubble in the landslide-hit area since 9.30am when the rescue operation began," said State Planning, Labour and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prakash Pant while talking to HT over the phone from the district headquarters town of Pithoragarh at around 2.30pm. "The impact of the cloudburst was so heavy that a whole mountain came sliding down on three villages in the Kuti area, instantly destroying several dwellings," he said adding that as many as 28 bodies were still missing in the landslide-affected area. Later in the day Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal visited the affected villages and instructed officials to speed up the relief operation. In fact the affected area has been entirely cut off from the outer world and all communication networks have also collapsed due to incessant rains. Commandant A. P. S Nimbadia of the ITBP's (Indo Tibetan Border Police) 7th battalion at Mirthi said jawans of his unit conducting rescue operation "evacuated 10 persons to safer areas where they were being provided food, shelter and medicine." The District Magistrate of Pithoragah, Narain Singh Negi said a rescue team comprising 60 PAC personnel and 43 Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) jawans were rushed to the spot at around 7.30am. The actual rescue operation, according to him, could begin around two hours later at 9.30am. But the response time of 7 hours the rescue teams took in reaching the landslide-affected Kuti may have punctured all tall claims of the state government about its disaster management system being quick and efficient.

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