Dehradun: Security forces have managed to evacuate 80,000 people stranded across the flood-ravaged Uttarakhand so far, in one of the biggest rescue operations ever in the country. However, thousands still remain stuck in the state as renewed rains dampened the already difficult rescue efforts on Sunday.
Heavy rains in the state caused fatal floods and massive landslides, which have already killed at least 1000 people - a figure that may sharply rise once the mammoth rescue operations wrap up. The Met Department has once again warned that the northern state may witness heavy rains on Monday, which may trigger fresh landslides.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has flown 1158 sorties, evacuating 9228 stranded people and dropping 1,50,000 kgs of relief material during the week. On the other hand, The Indian Army, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Border Road Organisation (BRO) and others have been helping people on the ground, establishing makeshift bridges, rescue shelters, staging areas and ropeways.
"A glacier broke and carried down an entire mountain with it. When we heard the noise, we ran into the temple and the water and rubble entered with us. The entire temple started shaking and we thought we would die," Kedarnath Temple's main priest Bagesh Ling recounted. Hundreds of pilgrims have been evacuated from Kedarnath but those from higher reaches are still making their way to the temple town, which has bore the brunt of the floods. Kedarnath shrine, worshipped by thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year, is safe, but the town has been reduced to debris, prompting the government to lockdown the pilgrimage route for the next two years.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna-led Uttarakhand government said while 450 people were rescued from Harsil on Sunday, 1500 still remained stranded there and 5000 are still stuck in Badrinath. Uttarakhand Chief Secretary, meanwhile, said last rites of all the bodies found in Kedarnath will be performed in the temple town itself after their DNA samples and photographs are taken.
However, in the Harsil axis of Gangotri, 2000 people are still awaiting evacuation. An Army column is reaching Hanuman Chatti where 700 are still stranded. Rescue teams, meanwhile, were successful in evacuating all those who were stuck in Jungle Chatti - an isolated area of the state with particularly difficult terrain. Army on Saturday reached Jungle Chatti from where Special Forces have created foot tracks to enable able-bodied people to be moved to safer areas.
The NDRF on Sunday deployed its 'Netra' UAV to trace survivors in various areas. NDRF DIG SS Guleria said the UAV will operate on Monday as well to ensure all living are located and eventually evacuated. State-run BSNL has operationalised helpline numbers 1503 and 09412024365 which are available free of cost from anywhere in the country. These numbers can be called to get information on the last active location of the BSNL mobile phones of the missing persons.
BSNL has provided free phone facilities at its telephone exchanges, telephone and control rooms at various locations to enable those stranded to contact their families. A train is running today from Haridwar to Mumbai, via Kota which will ferry the stranded persons free of charge.
The Health Ministry has dispatched three truck-loads of supplies to Dehradun - state's capital. Local police have reached Kedarnath and Gaurikund and the process of identification of the bodies has begun.
Guleria said there were difficulties in identifying some bodies as their clothes and personal belongings have been damaged or were not present. About 125 people have been evacuated from Gaurikund and about 100 more are still there and they would be pulled out in the coming days.
Badrinath, where people are in hotels with basic facilities, will be evacuated in the coming days, Air Marshal Deo said. The state government is making arrangements for transporting the pilgrims in response to reports that some taxi drivers are making exorbitant charges and are fleecing pilgrims.
Two light bridges airlifted by the Air Force on Saturday were on Sunday carried manually by personnel of BRO and NDRF on their backs in different pieces. They are likely to be "launched" or set up tomorrow, Gularia said.
Save the Children contact details:
Website : www.savethechildren.in
Phone : 011-42294900 / 66141335
Uttarkashi: 01374-226126, 226161
The ITBP helpline and control room numbers: 011-24362892, 9968383478
Army medical emergency helpline numbers: 18001805558, 18004190282, 8009833388
Uttarakhand Helpline numbers: 0135-2710334, 2710335, 2710233
Railway helpline numbers at Haridwar: 09760534054/09760534055;
Special helpline numbers:
State Disaster Management Centre: 0135-2710334, 2710335, 2718401-04. Fax: 2718400, 6555523, 6555524
Others: 09755444486, 09808151240, 09837134399, 999779124, 9451901023, 9456755206, 9634535758
For more information, please see the website where details are available: http://uk.gov.in
Email ID: email@example.com
Haridwar Control Room Numbers: 01334-233727, 01334-265876, 01334-223999, 01334-226849
Contact Person Dr Naresh Chaudhary: 9837352202
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)