By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 19 Aug: Rains continue to wreak havoc in Uttarakhand as the toll due to the cloudburst in Mori Block of Uttarkashi has officially risen to 18 till this evening. Independent sources however claim the toll to be higher. The government has pressed choppers and a number of rescue teams from NDRF, SDRF and ITBP, apart from local officials, to conduct rescue operations. So far, the death toll in the state has gone up to least 33 due to various disasters this rainy season. In the cloudburst of yesterday, major losses were reported from Arakot, Makudi and Tikochi villages of the state. All the three villages are connected to Himachal Pradesh and the road joining them has been washed away due to flash floods. As per reports, many houses were washed away in the flash floods and a number of persons are also reported to have been swept away. In fact, several districts are affected by landslides and flash floods in Uttarakhand presently. The Char Dham Yatra has been suspended for now due to landslides on the way to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri Dhams. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi, today, and briefed him on the grim situation in the state. He sought the cooperation of the Centre in dealing with the disaster and the losses. At the same time, Agriculture Minister Subodh Uniyal and Higher Education MoS Dhan Singh Rawat conducted an aerial survey of the affected region before landing at Arakot village to oversee the rescue operations. Sources claim that over 47,000 persons belonging to 13 villages were affected due to the cloudburst in district Uttarkashi.On the other hand, Secretary, Disaster Management, Amit Negi along with IG Sanjay Gunjyal visited the affected villages to oversee the rescue operations. The injured are being airlifted to Dehradun and being admitted to Doon Hospital. So far, 4 injured persons have been brought to Dehradun, according to Secretary Amit Negi. Several Air Force as well as private choppers have been pressed into the rescue operations. Later, on his return from the disaster site, Negi briefed the media in Doon. He claimed that till 1 p.m., 10 persons were reported dead in the cloudburst incident, while 6 were reported missing. He disclosed that relief material was also being airlifted and taken to Arakot and Makudi villages. The villages of Arakot, Makudi, Molra, Sanel, Tikochi and Duchanu Jotai Gakul were the most affected as the result of the cloudbursts. He also claimed that the rescue operations were being carried out on a war scale. He also disclosed that two medical teams led by Dr Vikas Semwal and Dr Mayank had also been sent to the affected villages. Several other teams had been put on standby, while River Tons continues to overflow in the region and above the danger mark even today. Meanwhile, rains continued to wreak havoc in other parts of the state as well. In Kumaon, the Kailash MansarovarYatra has also been suspended because of landslides and road blockages. The Rishikesh- Badrinath National Highway was blocked at Lambagad and Tangri, the Kedarnath Highway at Banswada. The Kedarnath Highway was reported to be also affected near Gaurikund and Ukhimath, thereby halting the Yatra. The Gangotri National Highway was blocked at Harshil, Badeti and Helgugad and Yamunotri Highway at Dabarkot and Hanumanchatti. In several places in Kumaon and Garhwal, stones were also falling due to which roads were blocked and it had become dangerous to pass through the affected zones. Independent sources also claimed that over 800 pilgrims and others were stranded in Badrinath region as district Chamoli continues to be regularly affected by the flash floods and incessant rains.