Uttarakhand toll 882, over 3,000 still missing

Dehradun, July 1 (IANS) Over a fortnight after floods and landslides ravaged it, Uttarakhand Monday set up a reconstruction and rehabilitation authority to oversee relief work in the state. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna put the deaths in the calamity at 882 and said 3,068 people were missing.

Bahuguna announced setting up of the Uttarakhand Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Authority at a press conference with union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh by his side.

Rescue efforts in the state were also nearing completion. The authorities began evacuating around 1,500 people, including locals, who are still stranded at Badrinath, Maneri and Harsil, but heavy rain and fog held up the operations at many places.

Around 300 pilgrims stranded in Chamoli district and 800 people in Badrinath shrine are to be ferried by chopper to Joshimath, officials said.

Bahuguna said no permission would be given henceforth for construction along river banks. He also said that children in areas hit by the floods would be given Rs.500 and college students Rs.1,000 each as intermediate relief.

He announced that water and power bills for flood-affected people would be waived.

The authorities are now confronted with the mammoth task of clearing up the debris, searching for bodies and disposing them of properly.

The chief minister announced that a team of 200 people, including officials from the police, health, animal husbandry experts and sanitation, are being rushed to Kedarnath to collect DNA samples of bodies.

Various state governments have been asked to verify the list of missing people and if they are not traced in a month, they will be declared dead.

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