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Over 10,000 people may be perished: Uttarakhand assembly speaker

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D S Kunwar, TNN | Jun 30, 2013, 02.39 AM IST

DEHRADUN: Giving credence to the worst fears, Uttarakhand assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal on Saturday said more than 10,000 people may have perished in the heavy rain and flash floods that ravaged the state since June 16. As the mammoth rescue operations gradually wind down, the official figures on the number of missing has been put at over 4,000 from the earlier 3,000.

"As none of the missing persons has returned, the government is bound to declare them as dead," said Kunjwal on his return after a 4-day survey of the calamity-hit towns and villages including Kedarnath, Gaurikund and Joshimath in Rudrapryag and Chamoli districts. Referring to his interaction with survivors in the two districts, he said thousands of people were either swept away in flash floods and cloudbursts or buried alive in massive landslides. He said he had seen hundreds of bodies lying in Sonprayag and Gauri Kund areas.

Speaking to a private TV channel later in the evening, CM Vijay Bahuguna, however, contested the speaker, saying the figure of 10,000 deaths is "incorrect". The speaker said the government's top priority at this juncture is to extricate bodies from under the debris and conduct early cremation. "Once we recover bodies stuck at various places, cremation will be carried out with religious rites. It's critical to check outbreak of epidemics," he said.

Meanwhile, the number of missing was revised to 4,649, two days after chief secretary Subhash Kumar put the figure at 3,000 based on the FIRs lodged with the missing persons cell and different police stations by their family members. Amit Sinha, DIG (Garhwal range), said with more and more family members lodging FIRs for the missing kin, the number may go up in the days to come. "As these figures are based on the number of missing cases registered, there is no point in concealing the actual number of missing," Sinha said.

He said the maximum 3,314 persons had been reported missing from Rudraprayag district alone, particularly from Kedarnath, Rudrapryag, Sonprayag, Gaurikund, Gauri Gaon and Guptkashi. Sinha said 1024 were missing from Dehradun, 276 in Haridwar, 18 in Tehri, 7 in Chamoli, 6 in Uttarkashi and 4 in Pauri district.