CM Sukhu seeks Rs 2,000 cr interim aid as Himachal deals with aftermath of heavy rains

Over 860 roads in the state are still blocked. The Himachal Road Transport Corporation has suspended operation on 994 routes while 260 buses are held enroute, Transport Department officials said.

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has sought Rs 2,000 crore from the Centre as interim aid and said the relief manual will be changed to enhance compensation to flood victims in the state.

Heavy to extremely heavy rainfall over the past week triggered landslides and flash floods, blocked roads and damaged infrastructure in Himachal Pradesh.

“I spoke to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and requested him for an interim relief of Rs 2,000 crore,” Sukhu said on Friday.

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The state has suffered losses of Rs 4,000 crore and the figure is likely to go up as estimates continue to pour in, he said.

Sukhu, who had announced that a compensation of Rs 1 lakh will be given to every affected family, said changes will be made in the relief manual to enhance the compensation.

According to the manual, each disaster victim is granted Rs 5,000 as aid at present.

Addressing reporters here, Sukhu said a disaster relief fund has been established to help the people in distress and all ministers in his government and Congress MLAs have decided to donate a month’s salary to help the victims.

Associations of Indian Administrative Services and Himachal Administrative Services officers and others have also decided to contribute a day’s salary to the fund, he added.

“We will request the BJP legislators to do the same,” Sukhu said and also appealed to the general public to contribute.

The government has devised a three-point strategy — rescue, evacuation and restoration. Having rescued about 67,000 of the 75,000 tourists, including 250 stranded in snow-bound Chandratal in Lahaul and Spiti, the focus is now on restoration of infrastructure, the chief minister said.

Some tourists are still there in Kasol and Tirthan Valley. They are all safe and have been provided with food and other essential items, he said.

In the past 15 days, the state government has released Rs 1,100 crore, including Rs 610 crore to the Public Works Department, Rs 218 crore to the Jal Shakti Department and Rs 180 crore to the State Disaster Relief Fund, he said.

Sukhu clarified that the Rs 180 crore received from the Centre was the annual assistance given to the state during the monsoon and reiterated that the state government is yet to receive financial aid. He also urged the Union government to release the Rs 315 crore pending since last year.

Since the onset of the monsoon in Himachal Pradesh on June 26, 108 people have died, while 12 are missing. As many as 667 houses have been damaged completely and 1,264 suffered partial damage, according to the State Emergency Response Centre.

Seventeen deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, including six in road accidents in Mandi and Shimla districts. The death toll includes those killed in road accidents and rain-related incidents.

Over 860 roads in the state are still blocked. The Himachal Road Transport Corporation has suspended operation on 994 routes while 260 buses are held enroute, Transport Department officials said.

Police teams are now focusing on inaccessible areas with tough topography and low mobile connectivity to trace stranded people.

Rescue operations are underway and police teams are moving to the tough interior areas where roads have been blocked due to floods and landslides, acting Director-General of Police Satwant Atwal told PTI.

A number of tourists stranded in Kasol, Manikaran and adjoining areas have refused to move out without their vehicles and decided to stay back till the situation normalises, she said.

The tourists said they would prefer to take their vehicles and wait for the roads to reopen, she added.

A landslide near Dunkhara on the Kasol-Bhuntar Road prevented the vehicles from moving, forcing the tourists to trek to reach the other side.

Noting the reluctance of some tourists to leave without their vehicles, Sukhu on Thursday said the police would provide them with a receipt that would allow them to take their vehicles when the roads reopen.

Families of tourists are still contacting the police to know their whereabouts. The police are now seeking details of hotels, vehicle numbers and photographs besides the names, numbers and last locations to trace the tourists.

Light to moderate rain drenched some parts of the state and the local meteorological office has issued a ‘yellow’ alert for heavy showers at isolated places in the state till July 18.

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