Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has ordered immediate evacuation of around 600 families living in houses which have developed huge cracks and are at risk in Joshimath town which is sinking.
"Saving lives is our first priority. Officials have been asked to shift around 600 families living in endangered houses in Joshimath to safe locations," Dhami told reporters here on Friday after reviewing the situation in the sinking town with officials via video conference.
"We are also working on short and long-term plans to address the situation in Joshimath," he said.
The chief minister will visit Joshimath on Saturday, meet the affected people and hold a meeting with officials.
Garhwal Commissioner Sushil Kumar and secretary, disaster management, Ranjit Kumar Sinha along with a team of experts are camping on the ground to constantly monitor the situation, Dhami said.
Relocation of people from the affected areas should be done expeditiously, he told the officials.
Medical treatment facilities should be available on ground and arrangements for airlifting people should also be made, he said.
An immediate action plan as well as a long-term action plan should be prepared and work on both should be started in right earnest, Dhami said.
Procedures should be simplified to expedite work on treatment of danger zones, sewer and drainage.
"Lives of our citizens are most important for us " he said.
"Joshimath should be divided into sectors and zones and action should be taken accordingly. A disaster control room should also be set up in the town," the chief minister said.
For permanent rehabilitation of the affected people, alternative locations should be identified in Pipalkoti, Gauchar and other places, he said.
The district magistrate should stay in touch with people and the potential danger zones should also be identified.
"Moving people to safe locations is necessary. Satellite images can also be useful in this. All departments should act with a team spirit to achieve success in the exercise," Dhami said.
Adequate deployment of State Disaster Response Force and National Disaster Response Force personnel should be made to help the affected people, he said, adding helicopter services should also be made available, if required.
"Joshimath is a town of religious and cultural importance. Care should be taken to ensure that the livelihoods of people are not affected," he said.
A temple collapsed on Friday evening in Singdhar ward of Joshimath, further alarming residents living under constant fear of a major disaster in the offing.
Luckily there was no one inside the temple when it collapsed as it had been abandoned after it developed huge cracks over the past 15 days, locals said.
Huge cracks have appeared in scores of houses while many have suffered subsidence.
Nearly 50 families have been moved to safer locations, officials said. Apart from them, 60 families living in a colony meant for Vishnu Prayag Jal Vidyut Pariyojana employees have been shifted elsewhere, its director Pankaj Chauhan said. Marwari area, where an aquifer burst three days ago, is the worst hit as water is constantly coming down from it.
All construction activities related to mega projects like the Char Dham all-weather road and the National Thermal Power Corporation's hydel project have been stopped till further orders on the demand of residents. The Auli ropeway, which is Asia's biggest, has been stopped after a huge crack developed beneath it, former president of the local municipality Rishi Prasad Sati said.
Land subsidence has been going on for more than a year but the problem has aggravated over the past fortnight, he said.
Meanwhile, protests continued on Friday as people staged a dharna at the tehsil office Joshimath demanding rehabilitation.
As Joshimath's susbsidence seemed to aggravate, the ruling BJP sent a team to the town to assess the situation.
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