Dehradun: The heroic efforts by the Army and paramilitary teams to conduct rescue operations in Uttarakhand are on even with a major risk to the personnel's own lives. The IAF has said rescue operations will continue despite the MI-17 V5 crash on Tuesday and the bad weather. This even as torrential rains predicted on Wednesday could trigger fresh landslides.
On Tuesday, an IAF helicopter returning from a rescue sortie crashed near Gaurikund with 19 people on board including men from the ITBP, NDRF and Air Force. The bodies of eight people including five crew members have been found.
A search is on for the others who were on board the Mi-17 V5 chopper that had taken off from Gauchar and was heading towards Gaurikund. The reason for the crash is not known but unconfirmed reports say it could have been because of fog.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has announced 10 lakh compensation for each of the families of those dead in the crash while Gujarat CM Narendra Modi has also offered Rs 5 lakh to each family.
"We have heard that 19 people were aboard the Mi-17 V5. The IAF has recovered 8 bodies so far. A search is on for the rest," NDMA Vice Chairman Shashidhar Reddy said.
Joining the nation in mourning the loss, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said, "My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost their loved ones. The whole country is with our jawans in this trying time. If we are able to pay our respects to them the way they deserve, we will consider our mission in Uttarakhand accomplished."
"The weather is unpredictable. And since monsoons are on, rains are inevitable. The cloud formations in the valley are unpredictable as well. People in the valley are being asked not to take any risks. We leave it up to them to decide, if they think it is apt to fly in these conditions," Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said.
It is a race against time as over 8,000 still people remain stranded in Uttarakhand. Bad weather and fresh landslides have hampered air operations on Monday and Tuesday even as some sorties did take place when the weather cleared briefly.
Fresh landslips in Rudraprayag and on the Badrinath highway choked the route. In Harsil, operations were on in full swing. The Uttarakhand government, in an action taken report, said on Monday that all evacuations will be completed in 72 hours provided the weather permits. Water supply has been restored in Badrinath, Joshimath, Gauchar, Uttarakashi and various other places.
Threat of epidemic looms large
There is a huge shortage of clean drinking water, one of the biggest problems after a natural disaster like this and there are fears of disease spreading, given what survivors have been exposed to. Hundreds of bodies also now need to be cremated at the earliest.
To get to remote villages, one has to get through roads which have been completely washed away by the recent rains. One has to cross these roads very carefully. After a 7 km walk, a CNN-IBN team reached the village of Rampur, a village cut off from roads, electricity and communication network for 11 long days.
But the larger threat right now is the fear of a spreading epidemic. In the past three days more than 300 villagers from the villages of Rampur, Sitapur and Sonprayag have reported sick with similar symptoms.
"Many people are suffering from diarrhoea and dysentery. There are no doctors here and many people have similar complains," said Dr Hitender Negi.
But is it too early to label this as an epidemic and if yes what could have caused it? "There's no scientific analysis yet but the huge number of people suggests it's an epidemic. There has been very heavy rainfall this year and due to many bodies in the catchment area, there are unusually many flies. So there could be a direct link to the flash floods," Dr Negi added.
While the threat of an epidemic with not enough medical care reaching remote villages looms large, the partial good news is that doctors for the time being have been able to check this disease from spreading further.
Death toll may rise further
The floods, which were triggered by early onset of monsoon, hit the state on June 16 and went on to cause massive landslides, choking several crucial roads and killing at least 1000 people. Uttarakhand particularly sees a high number of pilgrims and tourists during the summer because of famous pilgrimage sites, temples and hill stations.
The NDMA has warned there could be more bodies buried under the debris, which might add to the death toll.
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