Harsil: More than a week of rescue operations later, thousands are still stranded at various points in Uttarakhand. In Harsil and beyond, roads have given way after fresh landslides; the local district administration is absent and once again, apart from rescue operations and rebuilding roads, the Army, along with the help of locals, is providing shelter and feeding the thousands that are stranded in Harsil.
The closest helipad to Harsil and the runway is lined up with choppers waiting for the skies to open up for them to continue their rescue operations and on the other hand, the main focus of the Border Road Organisation (BRO) is to rebuild and connect the broken stretches of roads that have washed away to ease the pressure on the aerial evacuation. The BRO is also rebuilding the roads so that smaller villages that are tucked away can be connected and the locals can be rescued from those areas.
The military base at Harsil has become an evacuation point for most of the people who were stranded in Gangotri and various battalions of the Garhwal Rifles are keeping a control of the almost 6000 strong population. Their job is to give these people food and medicines.
Some of the people who have been brought to Harsil will get an air evacuation but the other part of their job is also to motivate some of them to take a trek down approximately a distance of about 28 kms from where they can get vehicular support.
Landslides are common across the 28 kms stretch, which effectively means the road becomes unmotorable, villages on either side become isolated, tourists are stranded, and food and water gets to them only by foot. In several places, the gush of water has brought down heavy boulders and washed away the road.
"Nobody is getting ration for these people. I have appraised my commander about this and he has purchased food for them. They come from Madhya Pradesh, are very humble, and are done with just two meals a day," said Capt A Gore, BRO.
The BRO personnel are the unsung heroes here - their relentless work in this area is giving hope to the stranded that a temporary road would be put in place soon to ease the pressure on the aerial evacuation. The loss to life in this area has been limited but the loss to infrastructure has been immense.
In many areas, trees have fallen and most people have not found the physical strength to take this entire stretch but have waited for choppers to take them back home. The pressure, therefore, is growing at the Harsil camp with every sortie bringing some smiles and many disappointments.
The efforts of Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army apart, a small village of Bhagori, just at the base of the military helipad where the roaring sounds of the sorties haven't stopped, is a shining example of villagers coming together and pouring their ration together and a small community kitchen is today, and for the last 6-7 days, feeding thousands.
After a day in Harsil and about 28 kms beyond, it is safe to say that this evacuation is one of the biggest that is being carried out and the 6000 people that have been stranded here are safe. Evacuation here has been a logistical nightmare - taking care of 6000 people, providing food and shelter and that too by a Army group of about 100-200.