Dehradun: Amid fears of thousands left dead in rain-ravaged Uttarakhand, relief and rescue operations were intensified today with eight additional IAF choppers pressed into service to evacuate stranded people in Kedarnath which has suffered massive damage in flash floods and cloudbursts.
The State Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre has said that casualties in the affected areas may run into thousands with about 90 'dharamashalas' (rest houses for pilgrims) swept away in the flash floods.
However, the toll has been kept officially at 150.
So far, over 15,000 people stranded in Kedarnath and Govindghat on way to Hemkund Sahib have been evacuated to Joshimath relief camps through air and road routes, IG police R S Meena told PTI.
Authorities are focusing on rescuing more stranded people in worst-hit areas.
"Apart from the 12 helicopters already engaged in rescue operations in affected areas, eight more have been roped in for the purpose to step up the process," Meena said.
Rescue efforts are being concentrated as of now on Kedarnath shrine and its adjoining areas in Rudraprayag district which has been the worst hit with about 90 dharamshalas in the temple area, where pilgrims were staying. having been swept away by the flood waters, he said.
Two helicopters have flown from Dehradun to evacuate stranded people.
The Army has also deployed its mountain rescue teams to evacuate the pilgrims.
A large number of places are still inaccessible due to heavy flooding in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts and it is impossible to ascertain the extent of damage caused by the calamity, the IG said.
Scores of villages remain under water and cannot be tracked.
Hence there is uncertainty about the casualties caused, he said, adding the devastation is massive.