The National Disaster Management Authority has barred government institutions from interacting with the media or sharing data online about the land subsidence in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath to prevent panic among residents, reported The Hindu.

The development came after images released by the Indian Space Research Organisation on Thursday showed that the town sank by 5.4 centimeters between December 27 and January 8.

“It is observed that various government institutions are releasing data related to the subject matter in social media platform, and also they are interacting with media with their own interpretation of the situation,” the disaster management body said in a letter addressed to government departments. “It is creating confusion not only among affected residents but also among citizens of the country.”

The Himalayan town is facing crisis as hundreds of homes have developed alarming cracks due to subsidence or sinking of the land in the region. Experts have long warned that rampant construction in and around the town, including work for projects by companies such as state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation, could lead to land subsidence.

The satellite images released by the Indian Space Research Organisation’s National Remote Sensing Centre on Thursday showed that the land subsidence recorded over 12 days from December 27 to January 8 was more rapid than the sinking of nine centimetres that took place between April and November.

A report by the National Remote Sensing Centre had identified the subsidence zone to be located at Central Joshimath, where a helipad of the Indian Army and the Narsingh Temple are located. The crown of the subsidence is located near Joshimath-Auli road at a height of 2,180 metre, the report added.

On Thursday Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had said that rumours about the disaster are creating a “wrong perception” about the town, which is harming the residents and Joshimath’s economy.

“We have international games, Char Dham Yatra [in the days] ahead,” Dhami had said, reported The Hindu. “Let’s not create panic that Joshimath is all damaged and unsafe.”

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