Monsoon rains causing floods and landslides have taken a heavy toll of life for Indian pilgrims going for their annual pilgrimage or Yatra in the Uttrakhand state of India. Economic Times reports the official number of the missing in the Uttarakhand disaster rose to 3,000 intensifying fears that the death toll is likely to eventually be much higher than what was earlier estimated. Unofficial estimates place the figure at the double the current official estimate.
While 2,200 are still stranded in Badrinath, the Kedarnath and Gangotri areas are said to have been cleared. Security forces started to pull out from the Kedarnath-Gauri Kund axis. Amidst fluctuating weather conditions, 2,365 people were rescued by air from Badrinath, Gangotri, Harsil and Pithoragarh and 500 on foot from Gangotri. About 2400 pilgrims were still stranded at Badrinath. About 1,02,600 stranded people had been rescued till date and about 3,000 persons are reported missing. There have been also reports of starvation, neglect and confusion for the stranded.
Many places of Hindu pilgrimage are located in the fragile ecological region of Himalayan belt. Natural calamities have been occurring in Uttarakhand for years mainly due to the damage to the ecology inflicted by deforestation. Construction of Dams and Hydel projects have also been major causes of such massive disasters. In hindsight, while the natural calamity which struck the state recently could not have been prevented, nonetheless the massive scale of devastation of life and property caused by it could have been minimised if the state government had heeded the weatherman’s warnings for June 15, 16 and 17, the days when this disaster occurred.