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Uttarakhand floods: Exact number of missing Nepalis yet to be ascertained



KATHMANDU: It has been almost three months since floods and landslides triggered by monsoon rains caused deaths of thousands of people, including many Nepalis, in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. But neither the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kathmandu is able to figure out how many Nepalis went missing in the incident.

Nepal’s mission in Delhi and MoFA in Kathmandu are pointing at each other as to who should be collecting the figures.

The Delhi mission recently wrote to MoFA suggesting that it would be convenient for it if the latter could send the data of Nepalis who were visiting Uttarakhand when floods struck the region. It has suggested that MoFA could collect the information from 75 districts across the country. MoFA on the other hand wants the Delhi mission to find the figures.

Nepal’s embassy in Delhi in late August had sent a two-member fact-finding team to Uttarakhand. The team submitted its report to MoFA after a weeklong field-visit of the floods-hit areas including Gaurikund, Guptakashi, Rishikesh, Haridwar and Dehradun.

“In all probability, a total of 5,000 Nepalis were at different locations of Uttarakhand during the floods,” MoFA Spokesman Deepak Dhital said. “Among them, 3,900 were said to be doles and rest were visiting the holy sites as pilgrims or workers.” Doles are people who earn their living by carrying people, especially pilgrims, on their backs.

Nepal’s Delhi mission so far has confirmed, based on the report sent by families, that whereabouts of 65 Nepalis are still unknown. It said the figure could go up, but ‘it cannot say the exact figures of missing people unless and until their kin report to it’.

MoFA spokesman Dhital said finding how many Nepalis were safe and how many were swept away or died or are still missing was a challenging job and that the (Delhi) mission should get the tentative figure of those missing in Uttarakhand. “Our embassy in Delhi and contact persons in Uttarakhand have been in constant touch with local authorities there for the information about missing Nepalis,” Dhital said.

In July, the Indian government announced that more than 5,700 people missing after the floods — triggered by monsoon rains believed to be the heaviest in 80 years in the Uttarakhand region — would be presumed dead.

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