Srinagar Garhwal, Uttarakhand, 25th June 2013:

As the magnitude of the ‘Himalayan Tsunami’ gradually unfolds in the hill state of Uttarakhand, World Vision India has deployed a team to assess the damage and need in the worst-affected areas before beginning relief operations. The flash floods and landslides have so far left more than 1000 dead, over 1750 houses damaged, 147 bridges swept away, more than 1307 roads completely damaged and about 8,000 people still stranded in different places in the hills and valleys waiting to be rescued.

The relief and rescue operations that the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force have jointly launched here, is the biggest human rescue operations that has ever been launched in the history. With the MET department forecasting more rains with the next two days, the evacuation operations by the armed forces is now on ‘full-throttle.’ 45 choppers are deployed in search and evacuations. Damaged roads and the extremely difficult terrains have made accessibility to most of these places possible only by air.

World Vision India’s assessment team has not been able to reach the worst-affected areas because of roads destroyed by the landslides. The narrow roads in these extremely tough Himalayan foothills make it one of the toughest terrains. After two days of unsuccessful attempts to reach Rudraprayag, one road seems to have cleared for the team today.

While most media reports are only reporting about the tragic state of pilgrims and tourists, the extent of the damage and loss to the local population is still unclear. “World Vision India’s assessment team that is en route to the disaster region will assess the damage and need of the most vulnerable local population, especially children,” said Kunal Shah, Head, Humanitarian Emergency Affairs, World Vision India. “Accessibility to and from most of the affected places have been completely cut off because of numerous the massive landslides caused by heavy rains during the past 36 hours.”

The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who has expressed serious concern over the disaster, has appealed to the nation for generous donations and support to ‘the distressed fellow countrymen.’ ‘Affected people need our help to tide over the calamity, to survive and to rebuild their lives,” he said.

The death toll is expected to go into the thousands. “Stranded trucks with relief materials unable to move further due to the landslides, are distributing their relief to passersby,” said Theodore Sam, Emergency Affairs Communicator, World Vision India, who is enroute to the affected areas. “But all routes to one of the most affected districts (Rudraprayag) have been completely cut off.”

While assessing and responding to the immediate needs of this disaster, World Vision India will also assess the long term needs of the most vulnerable in the regions. “World Vision India is in touch with the Inter Agency Group for a joint relief response once or assessments are over. Depending on the situation, World Vision India may respond to the more long-term needs such as shelter, health, livelihood, rehabilitation and education. Kunal Shah said, “Our priority would be to address the needs of the affected children first”.

About World Vision India

World Vision India is a Christian humanitarian organisation working to create lasting change in the lives of children, families and communities living in poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, caste, race, ethnicity or gender. Spread across 174 locations in India, World Vision works through long-term sustainable community development programmes and immediate disaster relief assistance.

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