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Rains claim 29 in the hills

A cloudburst at around 1 am on Friday has led to the death of 29 persons and over 30 people are missing in the Ukimath area of Rudraprayag district of the Himalayan state. The death toll, according to official sources, could go up. This is the second natural catastrophe to hit the state recently: a similar cloudburst had caused devastation in the Uttarkashi district earlier during the current rainy season.

Persistent rains in the district since Thursday evening, followed by the cloudburst, left several parts of the district devastated. According to the superintendent of police, Rudraprayag, V S Karki, the Ukhimath area was the worst affected and many people were still missing.

The rate of casualty was high as the cloudburst took place at night. 'The death toll is high as the cloudburst took place during the night when people were inside their homes. Maximum deaths have been caused due to crushing under the debris,' Karki said.

According to an official release, 62 Army jawans, 60 Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel, disaster management teams and the local administration were jointly carrying out relief and rescue works in the affected areas. A team of National Disaster Response Force has also been dispatched from Ghaziabad, and helicopters have been pressed into service to air-lift injured people, said the release.

Due to continuous rain, Rishikesh-Badrinath and Rishikesh-Gangotri highways have been closed for traffic. Communication and power lines in the area was also disrupted, said an official. Several rivers, including the Saryu and the Kaliganga, are flowing above the danger mark. According to a state government release, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has asked the Rudraprayag district administration to take up relief and rescue operations on a war footing.
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