High rainfall, swelling rivers spread panic in Uttarakhand

Extreme rainfall of the kind witnessed during last year's flood disaster unlikely, say Met officials

 
By Soma Basu
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Ganga Nagar Bridge in Rudraprayag district (Photos by Gajendra Rautela)

Heavy rainfall in Uttarakhand spread panic among residents even as the rivers started swelling once again, reminding people of the horrors of the flood disaster last year.

According to last available information from the Central Water Commission, on July 16 morning, the level of Mandakini river was 623.60 metre. The danger level of Mandakini river in Rudraprayag is 626.00 metre.

Till midnight yesterday, Uttarkashi received 88 mm of rains over a span of 24 hours while Dehradun received 64 mm rains. Met officials have sounded an alert that the region may experience heavy to heavy rainfall in the next 48 hours. The districts where very heavy rainfall is forecast are: Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Pithoragarh, Champawat, Nainital, Almora and Udhamsingh Nagar. However, officials also clarified that the rainfall would not be as high as it was last year.

BP Yadav, director of India Meteorological Department (IMD), said that the state would receive heavy rainfall because of a formation of a low-pressure system which is moving in from the north Chhattisgarh.

Inundated house in Agastyamuni, a small tourist town in Rudraprayag

Landslides leave pilgrims stranded
 
The Char Dham Yatra to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath has been suspended till July 18 due to the heavy rainfall. According to sources, heavy rainfall triggered several minor landslides, blocking roads and highways because of which hundreds of pilgrims are stranded near the four shrines of Uttarakhand.

Major landslides were reported on the Rudraprayag-Gaurikund National Highway and on the Sonprayag-Kedarnath trek route in Rudraprayag district on way to Kedarnath shrine. Rishikesh-Badrinath national highway was also blocked and the Saraswati river, which is in spate, washed away a bridge near Kalimath in Rudraprayag district.

People have already packed their bags and are waiting to flee to safer areas in Agastyamuni

With the rise in water levels in Mandakini and Alaknanda rivers, people have started panicking. “The rivers have risen and people have already packed their bags and are prepared to flee their homes if the river reached the level of the houses near Agastyamuni area,” said Gajendra Rautela, member of non-profit group Prakriti and resident of Agastyamuni, a small town in Rudraprayag district.

'IMD warnings not specific'

Meanwhile, the state disaster management centre chief, Piyoosh Rautela, criticised IMD’s weather forecasts. He said that the warnings issued by the IMD are not specific and often changed randomly without any errata or corrigendum which causes the people working on the ground level a lot of problems.

Very little flood protection work has been carried out by the government after last year's disaster in Agastyamuni

“Unfortunately, these organisations never care to accept and amend as per the standard scientific practice. No errata or corrigendum; just a fresh warning altogether. One should really think it over if the same is not adding to workload of people slogging out here,” he said.

“We understand the constraints of all departments, including that of IMD, but then they should also not start to behave that high handedly,” Rautela added.

Alaknanda river in spate near Silli in Rudraprayag

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