Floods and landslides in northern India have killed more than 1,000 people and stranded about 70,000, many of whom are tourists and pilgrims, with little food and shelter.
Beginning in mid-June 2013 with the onset of summer monsoon season, incessant heavy rainfalls have inundated the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and surrounding areas. The Indian army alone rescued more than 18,000 people via special buses and helicopters.
The mountainous terrains of Himachal Pradesh are home to several major and historic Hindu pilgrimage sites, such as Badrinath, and at least one major historic Sikh pilgrimage site, the Hemkund Sahib, besides several tourist spots and trekking venues. To help those affected by the floods, the army has deployed 10,000 soldiers and 11 helicopters, the navy has sent 45 naval divers, and the air force has deployed 43 aircraft including 36 helicopters.
Many people are using social media to find information about their family members and acquaintances. Photographs and helpline numbers have been uploaded and shared on social media sites. Google has set up its Google Person Finder service both in Hindi and English to offer information on missing people in the flood effected areas. Media Nama has a list of important initiatives and numbers to help. IBNLive has created a live storify blog to aggregate information about missing persons and pictures from the disaster place.
New Delhi radio DJ José Covaco (@hoozay) urged people to push IBNLive's blog on social media:
Anurag Khanna (@AnuragJtpac) from Kochi called for offline action from activists, as well:
The flooding has made for frightening scenes captured on video. Here is footage shot by a pilgrim depicting a bus plunging down from a road damaged from landslide. Eyewitness says that the bus was carrying more than 30 passengers who were never seen again.
Indian National Congress President Sonia Gandhi has asked all members of parliament to donate one month of their salary to help relief work. However, PhD student Sunny Singh (@sunnysingh_nw3) noted:
Pandit Kuldeep Vyas (@PtKuldeepVyas), a legal practitioner from Rajasthan, is against politicization of the disaster:
Amid stories of heroism and courage during evacuation and humanitarian response, it is being revealed that those stranded were also subjected to exploitation, manipulation, and blackmail. One account told of a passenger taxi driver charging a stunning 15,000 rupees (about 300 US dollars) for a 200-km journey for four refugees.
Political commenter Saral Patel (@PatelSaral) was furious over a story of a restaurant asking flood victims the equivalent of ten US dollars for a bowl of rice and almost four US dollars for bread:
Yash Gaddhyan (@yashgaddhyan) slammed the attempts to extort money from victims:
Geetika (@ggiittiikkaa) noted the chaos in relief distribution:
Journalist Aabhas Pandya (@abyboy) criticized the silence of the corporate sector in boosting the relief operations:
Opinions are abound on whether this disaster is natural or man-made. Several human practices, including unplanned construction along the banks of the Himayalan rivers are blamed as a cause of this disaster. Mechanical engineer and management student Karthick noted in his blog:
The so called Char Dham Yatra [Hindu pilgrimage] has had 3 Crore [30 million] visitors in the previous year. Tourism has been one of the major contributions to the state. Despite that the infrastructure had been poor and the Government never had intentions of developing the roads and facilities.
Blogger Rishi Aggarwaal argued that due to increased population, there should be an annual entry quota for the Char Dham Yatra pilgrimage.
Journalist Vineet Khare (@vineetkhare) warned the media not to resort to sensationalism during reporting:
@vineetkhare: Dear reporters, please do not reduce the Uttarakhand tragedy into a television tamasha (farce).
Meanwhile, the rain isn't stopping, adding to the misery of thousands of people. Engineering student Sagar Singh (@RtSagar) wrote: