Priority to evacuate people in danger: R.P.N. Singh

New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) Union Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh said Wednesday everything possible was being done to rescue flood-affected people in Uttarakhand, stranded after the heavy, incessant rains that began last Saturday.

“Our priority is to evacuate people in grave danger and take them to safe areas. Many people are stranded in the hills,” Singh told reporters.

Differing with the media reports that over 60,000 people were stranded in flood-hit Uttarakhand, Singh said many of them were actually stranded in their hotels, but unable to move out or communicate with their families elsewhere.

Singh said home secretary R.K. Singh was in Uttarkhand’s capital Dehradun to supervise relief and rescue efforts.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had conducted an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas, he said.

“There are problems in rescue operations due to bad weather. We deployed 10 helicopters on Tuesday, despite bad weather. The weather has improved today (Wednesday). We have deployed 22 helicopters of the paramilitary and the army in rescue efforts,” he said.

He claimed around 2,000-3,000 people had been evacuated.

Though packaged food was being air dropped for the people in the flood-affected areas, the union minister said there was a demand for 100 million tonnes of rice, and 60 kilolitres of kerosene from the state government.

“We are also trying to improve communication systems so stranded people can talk to their families,” he said.

The situation is so bad as the region received around 450 percent more rain than normal, causing roads to be cut off, he said.

Meanwhile, party general secretary Ambika Soni, in charge of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s office, has asked the state party units to chip in with whatever relief they can.

The Youth Congress has also dispatched relief material worth Rs.55 lakh, said Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko.

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