Army soldiers feared dead as landslide rocks Uttarakhand

Dehradun:  Six persons died and 10 others, including six Army jawans, were reported to be missing in two incidents of cloudbursts in the Dharchula sub-division of Pithoragarh district in the early hours of Monday. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat undertook an aerial survey of the affected areas, where a massive search-and- rescue operation was underway. One of the cloudbursts occurred near Tawaghat at around 2.45 AM, sending a rivulet, the Mangti Nullah, into a spate and its swirling waters swept away a few shops and three Army tents, an official release issued here quoted the Pithoragarh district administration as saying. A combined team of the Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) recovered two bodies from the spot, while eight persons -- five Army jawans, a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and two locals -- were missing, the release said. Three Army jawans and one JCO escaped with minor injuries in the incident, it added. The second cloudburst also occurred at around the same time at Malpa and swept away six persons.

Rescue teams later recovered four bodies from the area while two were still missing. "We have pressed the rescue and rehabilitation personnel from the NDRF and SDRF, besides ITBP and Army jawans into service and a massive search operation has been launched to trace the missing," said R S Rana, Disaster Management Officer of Pithoragarh. Four shops were destroyed in the cloudburst at Malpa, which also left one person injured. Accompanied by his cabinet colleague Prakash Pant, Rawat undertook an aerial survey of the rain-hit areas and asked the security personnel to launch the rescue operation and evacuate the affected people to safety. He also asked the disaster management department to prepare an action plan to deal with recurring disasters in the Munsyari and Dharchula areas, where landslides and cloudbursts are common during the monsoon. The chief minister, however, said there was no need to panic as the administration was "fully alert and prepared to tackle any situation". Relief-and-rescue operations had been launched on a war footing by the Army, NDRF and SDRF and those living along the banks of rivers and rivulets and other locations prone to landslides were being evacuated to safety, he added. Pant said the road from Malpa to Gal and the Lamadi-Chudi road were badly affected due to landslides. Pilgrims stranded in the Vyas valley were being evacuated to safety in a helicopter, which would remain stationed in the area, he added. PTI