Dehradun: The rescue operations are going on a war footing in Uttarakhand, where it is a race against time given the bad weather forecast for Monday. It rained across many parts of the state on Sunday and the Met department has predicted adverse weather conditions for Monday. "We are maintaining light to moderate rain. June 24 to 26 will be crucial. Low clouds might affect flying but we are hoping for it to improve," said Anand Sharma of the Met department.
So far, 80,000 people have been evacuated but more than 15,000 are still stranded across the state. The death toll has reached 1,000 and is expected to rise. The Government has announced that the cremation of the bodies of pilgrims with religious rituals will commence from Monday at Kedarnath as government officials say it is not possible to bring back all bodies. The photos and DNA samples of the deceased will be preserved for future identification.
Meanwhile, as time runs out with the weather warnings, the Army and paramilitary forces are working round the clock to reach those in inaccessible places, and are also distributing essential supplies. The Army spoke to CNN-IBN about creating a Burma bridge across the Alaknanda to help evacuate people by foot from the Badrinath-Govindghat stretch. This comes as many rope bridges have been washed away across the state. All those stranded in Jungle Chatti and Yamunotri have been rescued.
"The armed forces put to use some of the best military skill-sets to great effect in the flash-flood affected zones of Uttarakhand and rescued hundreds of fatigued and exhausted stranded tourists almost seven days after the tragedy struck the Kedar Valley," a Defence Ministry release said. "Unfavourable weather prevailed in all sectors of Uttarakhand in the morning hours on Sunday, yet IAF operations continued. 45 choppers airlifted more than 3,200 pilgrims in 250 sorties, dropping/landing 1,50,000 kg of relief material and equipment," it said.
The Ministry said the air operations began in affected areas after the C-130J undertook a weather recce mission while another aircraft carried fuel for chopper operations there. Under 'Operation Rahat', the IAF has flown 1,158 sorties and evacuated 9,228 people and dropped over 1,50,000 kg of relief material.
There is no doubt that the rescue teams are putting in the best of their efforts to rescue people. Many survivors also said the Army, Air Force and paramilitary men are heroes. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police forces in Kedarnath spend nights out in the open in freezing temperatures with only polythene sheets to cover themselves.
VK Duggal, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority, will on Monday chair the first meet of the state and central agencies on co-ordinating rescue efforts in Uttarakhand. On Friday, the government had admitted to a lack of synergy between the various agencies and that this was hampering the rescue operations in the state. The Centre appointed Duggal as the nodal officer. He is expected to leave for Dehradun later on Monday to take charge of the work there.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has said the restoration work at the Kedarnath temple complex will begin on Tuesday and rescue operations will continue for the evacuation of the 15,000 people still stranded. "80,000 people have been rescued. 15,000 people are left to be evacuated. Rescue teams have reached the badly affected areas and are providing necessary assistance," Bahuguna said.
Help pours in
Those in distress in Uttarakhand include animals too. Anyone who's been on the Kedarnath pilgrimage route would be familiar with the horses and mules used to ferry travellers. Now a team from 'People for Animals' is in Gaurikund to help the animals.
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 information from PTI)