Dehradun, June 30;The blame game over Uttarakhand deluge escalated on Sunday with the Meteorological department saying it had issued “timely” warnings of heavy rains and landslides but the state government claimed these were not “specific“.
The assertions by the MeT department and the state government, two weeks after heavy rains triggered floods and landslides that ravaged Uttarakhand, came amid questions whether the administration ignored the warnings and whether large-scale deaths in the hill state could have been averted.
The state government claimed there was no sufficient prior indication of a “crisis of this magnitude“.
Uttarkhand’s MeT department Director Anand Sharma said they had issued advisories from June 14 for the next couple of days and even suggested that the Char Dham ‘yatra’ of the holy towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri be postponed for 4-5 days.
“From 14th, we had started giving the heavy rainfall warning….For 15th we had issued warning for very heavy rains … and we also said if you could postpone the yatra for 4-5 days…. And 16th, we said heavy to very heavy rainfall and specifically highlighted the regions….,” he said.
Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Subash Kumar, however, sought to contest the MeT official’s remarks.
“I have been observing this since the last 10 to 15 years. They(MeT officials) always claim that it will rain heavily…But the intensity of the rain we had this time, we had no such specific warnings.
They had not asked to put the ‘yatra’ on hold. They had simply forecast about heavy rains,” he added. Mr. Sharma said the warnings cannot be specific.
“Our warnings cannot be so specific. Heavy to very heavy rains coupled with landslides at places is not enough to suggest that there is going to be crisis of this magnitude,” he said.
On the causes of the massive scale of loss of human life and property in disaster, Sharma said it can happen despite MeT department warnings.
Mr. Sharma while asserting that warnings of heavy rains cannot be “so specific” said it is difficult to anticipate how the situation will unfold in such circumstances.
He said the state MeT department had warned that people should avoid going to the hills and those already in higher reaches should move to safer places but conceded that such warnings were of little help to the people who were already on the move and had little access to any form of communication.
“The Disaster Management authorities here were aware of the warnings. Who am I to say whether the state government acted on the warnings or not,” Mr. Sharma told PTI on whether the the state government had failed to act promptly on the advisories.
Uttarakhand Disaster Management Minister Yashpal Arya admitted that the MeT department had issued the warning but said there was little the authorities could do because of the extent of the natural calamity as lakhs of people were scattered in the region.
“We had prior information. But there was no visible indication of crisis of this magnitude,” the Minister said.
“Lakhs of people were in different places. What could have the department done? We did our best and we will keep doing it,” Arya said.