The exact number of people dead or washed away may never be known, Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna said on Sunday as estimates of casualties in the worst natural disaster in the state run from several hundreds to several thousands.
"We will never know the exact number of those dead and the number of people who have been buried or washed away," Bahuguna said.
State assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal had stated on Saturday that the number of those killed could breach the 10,000 mark but the chief minister had said the figure was incorrect.
"There are 500-600 bodies which are visible, not only in Kedarnath area, but also in the entire state," he said as Uttarakhand makes a difficult limp back to normalcy from the tragedy.
In the interview, the chief minister dismisses criticism about the state government's handling of the situation and suggestions that it was a man-made disaster.
Bahuguna said as far as people from the state who are missing are concerned the district authorities will work on that. "For the victims of my state we will give the compensation and put them on fast track."
As for those who are from other states they should lodge complaints in their state, he said.
"If the states confirm to Uttarakhand that people from their states had come on pilgrimage here and that these numbers of pilgrims should be presumed to be dead and have not come back, we will accept their version and the compensation amount will be paid to respective chief secretaries for distribution to victims of the respective states," he said.
"There is a DIG rank officer (Mr. Gunjiyal) who is up there in Kedarnath and has been assigned the task of cremation of bodies. The process of cremation is on.
"The bodies which were lying on the streets (have been taken for cremation). A number of bodies are stuck in the buildings where they were living but for them (to be extricated) you require some machines. Some JCB machines are being made available," Bahuguna said.
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