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Essay on Uttarakhand Flash Floods
Essay # 1. Introduction to Uttarakhand Flash Floods:
The flash floods triggered by very heavy rainfall and cloudburst in Uttarakhand on 16-17 June 2013, affected 12 out of the 13 districts in Uttarakhand. The 4 districts that were worst affected were Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh. The deluge has washed away roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
So far about 1000 deaths are reported and many are still reported missing. In Kedarnath alone about 75,000 pilgrims had been stranded due to landslides and flash floods. In view of the devastating impact of the heavy rain fall in the state of Uttarakhand, Secretary General, Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) held a meeting on 18th June 2013 in his office with the senior officials from IRCS NHQ, IFRC and ICRC.
The Indian Red Cross Society (National Headquarters) mounted an immediate response to the disaster by deploying relief and assessment teams to Dehradun, Uttarkashi, Rishikesh, Pithoragarh and Rudraprayag. Shri Gulam Nabi Azad, Hon’ble Chairman, IRCS (The Minister of Health and Family Welfare) flagged off the trucks carrying relief materials for the flood affected victims on 21st of June 2013.
Relief materials in the form of Nonfood items has been despatched to the Uttarakhand state branch by road for further distribution to the affected areas. Till date more than INR 2.2 crores worth of relief items has been sent.
Uttarakhand, a state in the northern part of India receives large number of pilgrims during the months of June and July since it is a very important Hindu pilgrimage site, due to the many holy Hindu temples and pilgrimage centres found throughout the state. It also attracts large number of tourists as it is a hill state and home to many holiday retreats.
According to the Indian Meteorological Department, rainfall in Uttarakhand during the week of 20th to 26th June 2013 has been in excess by 37 per cent of normal rainfall. During this period, the state received 73.3 centimeters of rain while the normal rainfall is usually 53.6 centimeters. The heavy rains in the region have led to extensive flooding, landslides and destruction to property and lives.
Many areas are still not accessible and hence the exact death toll is difficult to estimate. However, looking at the extent of damage, the death toll is likely to be higher than what India has ever seen during a disaster. Every day, bodies of deceased are being recovered by the relief agencies from the flooded areas and the mud slides that are spread over vast areas of the hill state.
The Indian Army, Indian Air Force, the Indo Tibetan Border Force and paramilitary troopers, have carried out the biggest ever relief and rescue operation in living memory, while the National and State Disaster management teams joined hands to help the people who were stranded in the different parts of the state. A slight intensity earthquake of 3.5 magnitude on the Richter scale was experienced in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand on 27th June 2013. No additional damages and causalities have been reported so far.
Essay # 2. Indian Red Cross Responds to the Uttarakhand Disaster:
The Indian Red Cross responded to the Uttarakhand disaster by mobilising the National disaster response team (NDRT), Regional disaster response team (RDRT) and National disaster watsan response team (NDWRT) members who were alerted for possible deployment.
The National headquarters despatched a two member team to Uttarakhand on the 19th June 2013 for carrying out assessment of the needs of the community in coordination with the officials of the Uttarakhand state Red Cross branch and to follow it with the organisation of relief work.
The General Secretary, Uttarakhand State Red Cross branch activated the Certified First Medical Responders (CFMRs) at the various districts of Uttarakhand. There are 151 trainers and more than 4500 CFMRs who are trained in First aid, psychosocial support, search and rescue, dead body management, PhiEetc with the Uttarakhand Red Cross state branch.
A meeting with 30 CFMRs was held at Dehradun on the 19th June 2013. The team deployed at Dehradun established contact with FMRs and Patwaris in these affected Districts and the FMRs prepared lists of people who were stranded in their region. The list had details about the place they were stranded in, the contact person they wanted to inform their whereabouts, a message they wished to convey, phone number etc.
Around 50 such messages were delivered about these stranded people to their families that were waiting for information about their loved ones. A tracing request from Tamil Nadu was received regarding a group of pilgrims, their location was found out and medical assistance was organised for them. A meeting was held in state branch where around 30 volunteers participated who committed their time for relief operation activities.
The NDRT team reached Uttarkashi on 21st June 2013 and met the 30 FMRs working since the day of disaster. A high level team from the IFRC and National Headquarters consisting of the Head, IFRC; Deputy secretary, IRCS, NHQ and Advisor (DM) has also visited Uttarakhand for an on the spot analysis of the situation. IRCS is in close coordination with the Director (EMR), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for any requirement that may need to be addressed.
On request, IRCS despatched 1600 body bags to Dehradun. Relief materials in the form of 1050 Family tents (to accommodate upto 8 persons each), family packs (including kitchen sets, clothings, buckets etc.), stoves, lanterns and tarpaulins etc. worth INR 2,21,99,300 have been despatched to Uttarakhand.
A Red Cross camp has been set up near Vikasbhawan in Joshiyara, Uttarkashi. 40 tents have been erected and 24 families are at the camp presently. 35-40 CFMRs are working at Uttarkashi. Further as reported by the state branch FMR and Red Cross life members gave first aid, navigation assistance, medicines, etc. to 1720 people.
Assessment to document impact of floods on the local population is underway. Another team of two National Disaster relief team members of the IRCS (NHQ) has been deployed at Pithoragarh on the request of the Secretary, Uttarakhand State RC Branch. The team went to BALWAKOT, NAYABASTHI, DARCHULA, GHOTI after walking for 5-8 km.
The people are living in tents, administration is providing them ration. No major health issue has been reported. 5 FMRs are working in temporary shelters here since 17th June. Around 3000 people have been evacuated to safer places by ITBP. Mobile health unit has been set up by the government and Red Cross hospital at Balwakot is also functioning. A ‘Restoring family links’ expert has reached Rudraprayag along with the NDWRT expert for assessment of needs and coordination in relief measures.
Essay # 3. Districts Affected by Flood:
All the 13 districts in Uttarakhand that had been affected by the floods of which four districts were the worst affected. These are- Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts. Both local inhabitants in the remote villages and pilgrims to the area are affected.
Damage Details in the Worst Hit Districts:
This is the worst affected district. Most of the district is still inaccessible. (Uttarakhand Flash Floods: 2nd July 2013 by United Way of India)
i. Due to a cloudburst resulting in heavy rains on 14 June 2013, the banks of the lake Chorbaria Tal (Ghandi-Sarovar) situated above Kendarnath village burst causing flash floods and landslides and washing away villages downstream.
ii. The villages of Kendarnath, a tourist and religious pilgrimage site situated just below the lake, was completely washed away.
iii. Downstream villages of Rambara, Gaurikund and Sonprayang were also washed away.
iv. All roads from Sonprayang upstream were washed away; the area is accessible only with helicopters or on foot.
v. Government reports estimate that in 3 villages around Rambara all men above age 14 have been killed leaving a number of widowed families.
i. The worst affected villages in Chamoli district are Ghangaria, Pulna, Govindghat and Badrinath.
ii. A lot of villages have been severely affected between Govindghat and Ghangaria area and major casualties are expected in the Govindghat area.
iii. All roads from Joshimath upstream have been washed away; the area is accessible only with helicopters or on foot.
The most affected villages in Uttarkashi district were around Harsil where a lot of tourists were stranded. An estimate suggests that around 10,000 people had been affected in the district. In the stretch between Uttarkashi to Gangotri, 400 households from 61 villages had been damaged.
It is estimated that a lot of villages are stranded with no reliable source of food All roads from Gangani upstream have been washed away; the area is accessible only with helicopters or on foot The roads between Bhatwari and Gangani had been severely damaged.
Total of 121 villages are reportedly affected in this district. The most affected villages Munsyari and Dharchula. In Balwakot village, 50-60 people have lost their homes and are currently staying at an ashram (hermitage). 26 houses have been damaged in Madkot village, 250 in Pangla, 8 in Balwakot, 23 in Tawaghat, 15 in Goti, 19 in Dharama, 15 in Johar, 3 in Ghalpani, 7 in Yelaghat, 16 in Sabda, 19 in Biyas village. 35 houses are damaged in Chori, Ghattabagad and Baram villages. 20 are reported dead and 19 missing in Chiplakedar.
Himachal pradesh is the neighbouring state to Uttarakhand. As of now damages have been reported from Kinnaur district only.
The worst affected villages are: Pangi, Broa (both in Kalpa block), Tapri, Chagaon, Rarang, Kanam, Labrang, Pooh, Ropa, Gyabong, Sumnam, Thangi, Asrang, Moorang. 5 people in Chagaon village and 6 people in Urni village are reported dead. In Urni village, 50-70 houses are badly damaged.
In Tapri, 10-12 houses have been damaged and debris has accumulated in them. 6 houses have been washed away in Chagaon village and 15 are on verge of collapsing. 20-30 houses have been damaged in Broa. Communities are facing a severe shortage of drinking water. Livestock and apple orchards have been affected in the district and people are worried about their sustenance.
United Way of India is constantly in touch with its NGO partners, government agencies and the United Nations organizations working in the flood affected regions of Uttarakhand and will keep updating the situation report.