Dehradun: Massive rescue operations continued on Saturday in Uttarakhand, a week after fatal floods hit the northern state and claimed at least 1000 lives. 73,000 people have been evacuated so far.
One of the most difficult operations of the the Indian Army is on in an isolated area called Junglechetti between Ram Bara and Gaurikund. Almost half of the 1000 people stranded there have been airlifted so far.
CNN-IBN reached Badrinath, where thousands are still stranded but are safe. Rescue work is also underway in Sonprayag - the highest area accessible to civilians where the Indian Army has built a temporary bridge to move hundreds out.
Rescue work is now on a war footing in Uttarakhand as the Met department has predicted more rains by Monday. The death toll has now touched a thousand and is expected to rise; and in a grim indicator of things to come, four bodies have turned up downstream in Bijnaur district of Uttar Pradesh on Saturday.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has told CNN-IBN that bodies are being recovered from debris. "Casualties are definitely more than 500 and it could also be in thousands, but the correct figure will only be known once the slush is cleared," said Bahuguna. Ajay Chadha, DG ITBP, also said the toll could be higher but the actual estimate can only be made once the rescue operations wrap up.
Authorities at the moment are focusing on air lifting and evacuating locals and tourists who are stranded in the state. An estimate suggests that when the tragedy struck, 9000 people were present in Kedarnath and now over 700 tourists and 2800 palanquin bearers are missing.
Tourists staying in over 250 hotels between Gaurikund and Kedarnath are also missing while 700 government officials and 500 local traders are also reported to be missing. By calculation, just in Kedarnath alone, the death toll could be close to 15,000.
"They say the number of dead are only hundred. I was there. The number of deaths could be over 15,000," Bihar BJP leader Ashwani Choubey said. As Uttarakhand struggles to deal with its worst ever calamity, it looks like it will take months for the real magnitude of the situation to emerge.
Meanwhile, it has not taken too long for politics to be played over the human tragedy in Uttarakhand. On a day when Narendra Modi flew over the state, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said only the state chief minister should be doing aerial surveys. Ironically both the Congress and the BJP are accusing each other of politicking over the tragedy.
"Nobody, except the chief minister of the state should go there at the moment," Shinde said, but he was flanked by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in Dehradun. Even as the security forces are struggling to meet up to the demands of those trapped in the disaster, the politicians are already catering to the demands of their constituencies.
"All the choppers should be made to fly to Uttarakhand and secure every living individual," said BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi. Congress is quick to defend yet another absence of Rahul Gandhi in times of crisis, but in his defence, the Congress pointed, out VVIPs should avoid rushing to the state.
But, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi were the first to conduct an aerial survey of the state on June 19. And even as Uttarakhand suffered, its Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna was in New Delhi, waiting to meet the Prime Minister.
BJP President Rajnath Singh visited Uttarakhand on June 20 while both Shinde and Modi are in the state on Saturday.
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