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Uttarakhand on flood alert after heavy rain

Heavy rain is battering the northern Indian province of Uttarakhand. With major rivers edging closer to dangerous levels, there are fears of a repeat of the severe flooding that hit the region last year.

NEW DELHI: Uttarakhand is on high alert -- after days of non-stop rainfall, almost all rivers in the province are in danger of overflowing. The heavy rainfall have blocked off key roads and cut off access to many villages. Hundreds of people living in low lying areas have been asked to evacuate to safer locations.

The bad weather is bringing back memories of the severe flooding and landslides that hit the region last year.

Neetu Sinha, a local resident, said: "My whole house is in danger now. God alone knows when my house will collapse completely. Throughout the year, I have been approaching the local authorities to seek their help. But so far, I have not got any response from them."

Uttarakhand had witnessed the death of over 5,000 people in flashfloods in June 2013, which had also left a trail of destruction in large parts of the state. However, local officials said they are better prepared to battle the floods this year.

Piyush Rautela, chief of the Disaster Management Centre in Uttarakhand, said: "We are undertaking registration of all the pilgrims. To add to it, the SDRF (State Disaster Response Force), NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) and our search and rescue peeple are in place. We have preposition all the equipment and men at the vulnerable areas."

Local media said thousands of tourists have been stranded while two persons have died in the landslides caused by the heavy rainfall.

The state government has set up camps in vulnerable areas and prepared food and medicine for such emergency use. But opposition politicians said authorities did not work to improve flood prevention measures after the crisis last year.

Ajay Bhatt, a member of the BJP party and leader of the opposition in Uttarakhand, said: "The local government has failed to take precautionary measures after the disaster. The paramilitary forces and necessary central agencies should go visit the sites and look into solving the situation."

With no sign of the rains abating, the Uttarakhand government is striving hard to brace itself for another flood crisis. From setting up wireless communication system at river banks to issuing timely warnings to locals and tourists, the authorities are trying to get all tracks covered. However, such flood prevention efforts will be difficult with the dilapidated infrastructure and the battered road network in the province. 

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