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India flash flood survivors still struggling, one year on

Thousands who survived the devastating flash floods in the northern Indian province of Uttarakhand one year ago are struggling to pick up the pieces. They want the government to fulfil its promise of providing monetary compensation, jobs and in many cases, new homes.

INDIA: Thousands who survived the devastating flash floods in the northern Indian province of Uttarakhand one year ago are struggling to pick up the pieces.

They want the government to fulfil its promise of providing monetary compensation, jobs and in many cases, new homes.

On June 16 and 17 last year, massive flash floods and landslides ravaged the fabled Kedarnath valley, sweeping away villages and leaving some 4,000 dead and 1,500 missing.

But a year on, the grieving families are still waiting for closure.

Many are struggling to trace the bodies of their relatives.

Families of many missing persons have not received compensation because they do not have identification proof of the victims.

Gyanesh Mishra, official at Uttarakhand Tragedy Victims’ Organisation, said: "The Uttarakhand government had promised to give compensation to the families of those who died. It has been one year and no one has got a death certificate or the compensation of 500,000 rupees, which was promised."

Besides bringing gloom to those who lost their kin, the natural disaster has severely affected Uttarakhand's economy, one especially dependent on pilgrim tourism.

According to a survey by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, tourism numbers have dropped by 85 per cent from the year before the floods.

But instead of rebuilding homes and the infrastructure of devastated areas, and creating new jobs for residents, a document from the Uttarakhand public information office showed that a large portion of the reconstruction budget was spent on advertisements to promote tourism in the state.

Also, measures to improve disaster management policies after the tragedy have remained mostly on paper.

Officials had promised to review infrastructure systems in areas vulnerable to flash floods, particularly in the affected Himalayan states.

Some of these included constructing better roads and examining the safety of existing hydro projects.

But observers said nothing significant has changed on the ground.

Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Bharatiya Janata Party’s member of parliament, said: "Nature took its course but what is sad that after the floods caused destruction, the way the government dealt with the disaster doesn't seem enough."

With the state government still struggling to locate the missing persons and hard-pressed for funds needed to rehabilitate its people and rebuild the state's economy and infrastructure, it seems the road to recovery remains a long one. 

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