DEHRADUN/SHIMLA: With more bodies being recovered and many of those missing being declared dead, casualties in the Uttarakhand rain and floods stood at 64 on Thursday. Among those found dead or fear to have died were nine trekkers, five of them in Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. Nainital remained the worst-hit in terms of casualties as the death toll in the district climbed to 34, followed by Champawat district where 11 people have died. Almost 17 teams of NDRF, 60 teams of SDRF, 15 companies of PAC and 5,000 police personnel are still engaged in rescue and relief operations in the Kumaon division. Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami said the damage due to floods and landslides over the past few days has been tentatively accessed at Rs 7,000 crore for the state. He added that the loss damages could exceed Rs 10,000 crore once a final estimate is in. A day after 11 climbers — majority of them from West Bengal — who were on a trek from Harsil in Uttarakhand to Chitkul in Himachal Pradesh went missing following heavy snowfall in the region, bodies of five trekkers were recovered in Kinnaur while two were rescued alive. This comes even as four more trekkers — all from Kolkata — were reported to have died during a trek to Sunderdhunga valley in upper Kumaon. Talking about the Sunderdhunga trek, Kapkot (in Bageshwar) sub-divisional magistrate Paritosh Verma told TOI that a porter, Harak Singh, accompanying the six-member team had returned from the trek and informed the administration that four trekkers had been buried alive in the snow while two had gone missing. “We have sent a state disaster response force (SDRF) team as well as a medical team to the site. We have also rescued 42 tourists from the region,” he said. Extreme weather in the two Himalayan states has left hordes of tourists stranded. At least 80 tourists, mostly from West Bengal, Punjab, Delhi and Himachal, have been stranded at Batal in Spiti valley of Himachal since Sunday when heavy snowfall blocked the Manali-Kaza highway. They have taken refuge in two dhabas and a government rest house. More than 100 tourists are currently stranded in Darma and Byas valleys in Uttarakhand and the district administration has decided to airlift them. Himachal Pradesh authorities said that bodies of trekkers would be airlifted to Uttarkashi on Friday as bad weather prevented the chopper sortie on Thursday. A rescue team comprising Army and ITBP personnel in Kinnaur district had recovered the bodies and rescued two climbers. Meanwhile, a fresh western disturbance and is very likely to affect the hill states from October 22 to 24, with fairly widespread rain and snow over Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal and Uttarakhand, the met department said. Union home minister Amit Shah, after an aerial survey of the affected areas in Uttarakhand, said that except three roads, traffic movement had started on most stretches. Nainital, Haldwani and Almora roads had been opened to traffic. Railway tracks have suffered heavy damage at one place and repair work has also begun. More than 60% electricity supply has been restored, he said. “In this hour of crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to the Uttarakhand chief minister many times and the central government has put in all its strength to help Devbhoomi,” Shah added. Survey teams of the Ministry of Home Affairs will visit the state to take stock of the damage, he said, adding that an amount of Rs 250 crore has been issued by the Centre to the state a few months ago by the disaster management department. He said the Centre has already released assistance of Rs 749 crore as the Central share under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). More than 3,500 people have been rescued and over 16,000 people have been evacuated to safer places as a precaution, and there are no reports of loss of life of any tourist so far, said Shah. TOI has found that at least nine trekkers from outside the state have lost their lives since October 17 following extreme weather conditions.

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