Rescue and relief operations continue following floods in Uttarkhand, northern India

Publié: 28 juin 2013 9:25 CET

By Madeline Wilson, IFRC

Ten days after monsoon rains in northern India caused widespread devastation and loss of life, the Indian Red Cross Society continues to respond to humanitarian needs.

Monsoon rains in India on 16 and 17 June travelled across the subcontinent at the fastest rate in 50 years, advancing a month ahead of the expected path. The rains caused flash flooding and landslides that are reported to have killed up to 1,000 people, though this number is likely to increase as more assessments are carried out.

Relief efforts are still focused on search and rescue, with the Indian army leading efforts to locate and identify thousands of stranded pilgrims and tourists who were visiting holy shrines in the region when the floods struck. So far 97,000 people have been evacuated but 22,000 people remain unaccounted for. While most of those affected by the disaster are pilgrims and tourists, the impact on local communities is unclear. However, 1,725 houses have been reported as damaged.

The Indian Red Cross Society, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has assisted in the response since the flooding began. Over 100 volunteer emergency first medical responders have been providing first aid to those affected by the disaster.

The organization is also working closely with the local authorities, helping in evacuation and rescue efforts as well as setting up relief camps, providing supplies and establishing the restoring family links service.

Red Cross volunteer Kushpal Singh, walked for five hours from Uttarkashi to Bhatwadi immediately after hearing about the needs in the area. He walked 28 kilometres through jungle, over hills and blocked roads to reach those stranded in Bhatwadi. Through the restoring family links service, supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Kushpal was able to provide details of these survivors to their relatives, a vital community service considering the number of people still unaccounted for.

The National Society is transporting emergency relief items including tents, blankets and clothing for 10,000 people by road to Uttarkhand from its warehouse in Delhi. An additional 1,600 body bags, provided by the ICRC, have been dispatched to local authorities.

The IFRC has committed over 479,000 Swiss Francs (390,000 Euros) to support the Indian Red Cross Society’s efforts through its Disaster Response Emergency Fund. These funds will be used to support the distribution of emergency relief items and to provide safe water for up to 25,000 people.

Disaster response teams are conducting assessments to get a more accurate picture of the humanitarian needs in the region. As many areas remain inaccessible and communications are problematic across much of the state, it will be some time before a true picture of the damage and its effect on local populations is realised.