Uttarakhand Disaster 2013

2013 North India Floods by Bhagyasree Ramakrishnan IX-B

Introduction

In June 2013, a multi-day cloudburst centered on the North Indian state of Uttarakhand caused devastating floods and landslides in the country's worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami. Though some parts of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in India experienced the flood, some regions of Western Nepal, and some parts of Western Tibet also experienced heavy rainfall, over 95% of the casualties occurred in Uttarakhand. As of 16 July 2013, according to figures provided by the Uttarakhand government, more than 5,700 people were "presumed dead." This total included 934 local residents.

Reason which caused the disaster

From 14 to 17 June 2013, the Indian state of Uttarakhand and adjoining areas received heavy rainfall, which was about 375% more than the benchmark rainfall during a normal monsoon. This caused the melting of Chorabari Glacier at the height of 3800 metres, and eruption of the Mandakini River which led to heavy floods near Gobindghat, Kedar Dome, Rudraprayag district, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Western Nepal, and acute rainfall in other nearby regions of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Tibet.

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Consequences

Over 70,000 people were stuck in various regions because of damaged or blocked roads. People in other important locations like the Valley of flowers, Roopkund and the Sikh pilgrimage centre Hemkund were stranded for more than three days. The roads were seriously damaged at more than 450 places, resulting in huge traffic jams, and the floods caused many cars and other vehicles to be washed away. On 18 June, more than 12,000 pilgrims were stranded at Badrinath, the popular pilgrimage center located on the banks of the Alaknanda River.

Chota Char Dham

The Chota Char Dham is an important Hindu pilgrimage circuit in the Indian Himalayas. Located in the Garhwal region of the state of Uttarakhand (formerly the northwestern section of Uttar Pradesh), the circuit consists of four sites Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath.

Hemkund Sahib

Hemkund Sahib is a Sikh place of worship and pilgrimage site in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, India. With its setting of a glacial lake surrounded by seven mountain peaks, each adorned by a Nishan Sahib on its cliff, it is according to the Survey of India located in the Himalayas at an elevation of 4,632 meters (15,197 feet). It is approached from Gobindghat on the Rishikesh-Badrinath highway. The main town near Gobindghat is Joshimath.

Disaster in Kedarnath

On June 16, 2013 at approximately 7:30 p.m., a landslide occurred near Kedarnath Temple with loud thunder followed by gushing of huge amount of waters from Chorabari Tal or Gandhi Tal down Mandakini River at about 8:30 p.m. which washed away everything in its path. On June 17, 2013 at approximately 6:40 a.m., waters rushed down River Saraswati and from Chorabari Tal or Gandhi Sarovar bringing along with its flow huge amount of silt, rocks and boulders. A huge boulder got stuck behind Baba Kedarnath Temple, protecting it from the ravages of the flood's fury. The flood water gushed on both sides of the temple destroying everything in its path. Thus in the middle of pilgrimage season, torrential rains, cloud bursts and resulting flash floods nearly destroyed the town of Kedarnath. The town was the worst affected area by the floods. Thousands of people were feared killed and thousands of others (mostly pilgrims) were reported missing or stranded due to landslides around Kedarnath. Although the surrounding area and compound of the Kedarnath temple were destroyed, the temple itself survived. The Uttarakhand Chief Minister said that pilgrimage to Kedarnath would not be possible for next two to five years. The rescue operation resulted in more than 100,000 people being airlifted with the help of the Indian Army, Air force, NDRF and Indo-Tibet border police force. A helicopter (Mi 17) crashed during this exercise killing all 20 people on board (all of them were soldiers involved in relief and rescue work). The Air Force dropped logs to build pyres for mass cremations of the victims.

Operation Surya Hope

Operation Surya Hope is the name that Indian Army’s Central Command gave to its response in Uttarakhand following the June 2013 North India floods.

Operation Rahat

Operation Rahat was the name given to the Indian Air Force's rescue operations to evacuate civilians affected by the 2013 North India floods. Thousands of pilgrims in transit in the hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh were stranded in various valleys. It was one of the largest operations of the Indian Armed Forces in several decades. and IAF claims it to be the biggest civilian rescue operation in the world carried out by any air force using helicopters. During the first phase of the operation From 17 June 2013, the IAF airlifted a total of 19,600 people - flying a total of 2,140 sorties and dropping/landing a total of 3,82,400 kg of relief material and equipment.

Steps Taken by the Government

The Prime Minister of India undertook an aerial survey of the affected areas and announced INR 10 billion (US$170 million) aid package for disaster relief efforts in the state. Several state governments announced financial assistance, with Uttar Pradesh pledging INR250 million (US$4.2 million), the governments of Haryana, Maharashtra and Delhi INR100 million (US$1.7 million) each, the governments of Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh INR50 million (US$840,000) each. The US Ambassador to India extended a financial help of USD $150,000 through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the NGOs working in the area, and announced that the US will provide further financial aid of USD $75,000.

The Government of India also cancelled 9 batches, or half the annual batches of the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra, a Hindu pilgrimage. The Chardham Yatra pilgrimage, covering Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath was cancelled for 2 years to repair damaged roads and infrastructure, according to the Uttarakhand Government. The Hekmund Sahib Yatra was also cancelled.