Uttarakhand toll may be 1,000: CM

Last Updated: Sat, Jun 22, 2013 21:31 hrs

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said that the death toll in the devastating floods in the state may go up to 1,000 even even as 557 deaths were reported till Saturday.

Even as rescue workers raced to get evacuate people from the areas destroyed by landslides, flash floods and torrential downpour, around 22,000 people still remained stranded across the state.

The number of people rescued so far reached 70,000 on Saturday, officials said, with around 10,000 of them evacuated on Saturday.

At least 2,000 people were rescued by the Army from critical areas including Jungle Chatti, in mountains between Gaurikund and Rambara in Kedarnath.

Officials expressed heightened concern for the nearly 500 people who are still stuck in the dangerous terrain and another 8,000 who are stranded in the holy town of Badrinath.

While some of the survivors in the area seemed to have taken refuge in gorges and ravines, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) officials plan to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to locate people in these remote areas.

While 123 bodies have been recovered from the Kedarnath temple complex, nearly 80 people are still stick in the town which was one of the worst hit regions.

A group of 20 trekkers, including six Americans, have also been rescued after they were stranded near a remote glacier.

As the met department predicted more rains from Sunday, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde set a three-day deadline for completion of rescue work after reviewing the situation on Saturday.

While Shinde, after completing a survey of the state said that there was a lack of coordination between various government agencies, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari quickly denied any confusion.

More than 60 helicopters of the Army and Air Force joined in the rescue effort that is being said to be the biggest such operation undertaken by the armed forces.

The Ministry of Defence said that a series of major breakthroughs were achieved by the Army and the Air Force on Saturday.

All the 500 people stranded in and around Gangotri have now been evacuated and barring 25 people, Gagariya on the Hemkund axis has been evacuated, a government statement said.

Weather permitting the balance 25 will be evacuated at the earliest, it added.

Army troops, skilled in mountain rescue operations, have established contact with more than 1,000 persons stranded in mountain folds in Jungle Chatti between Gauri Kund and Rambara on the Kedarnath axis.

Till the reports last came in, Army helicopters have evacuated 350 people so far and search operations are continuing.

Food and medicines have also been dropped. Two medical teams have now been established at Gauri Kund to treat patients. Besides, a composite relief staging area has been opened at Gauri Kund providing food, water and medicines to the people.

Early in the morning on Saturday, dedicated Army teams prepared a helipad at Jungle Chatti which facilitated evacuation from one of the most dangerous and inaccessible areas of Kedar valley.

This helipad is now being improved to facilitate landing of Dhruv helicopters. The Army also constructed two helipads at Gauri Kund.

A heli-bridge was created at Govind Ghat to transport pilgrims across the Alaknanda River. Helicopters performed shuttle service from either banks of the river as the temporary crossing made earlier had collapsed.

The Army also operationalised the foot track between Govind Ghat and Lambagar on Badrinath road.

Another column conducting road clearing operations from Badrinath to Lambagar successfully launched a foot bridge over Alaknanda this evening, thus opening the foot route from Badrinath to Govindghat.

The road from Govindghat to Joshimath is open to vehicular traffic.

The Army also said that all stranded people in Gangotri have been evacuated. The road is now open for light vehicles from Gangotri to Harsil.

Due to a series of landslides between Harsil and Uttarkashi, the Army is now moving people using 'Staging Area' concept.

Across all landslides, people are being made to cross on foot and in between any two landslides, vehicles are being used.

Two staging areas at Sukhi and Gangnani have been established to provide food and medicines to evacuated people.

An Army column reached Barkot on Yamunotri axis on Saturday. The column would start evacuating people from Yamunotri by tomorrow. As per the latest data, approximately 700 people are at Yamunotri.

In Tawaghat - Dharchula axis in Pithoragarh district, the Army is in the process of establishing link up with approximately 1,000 people in Sobala valley and medical teams and food has already been sent there on Saturday.

An Army column evacuated all 45 children who were stranded at Pindari glacier in Bageshwar district. Search operations are on to link up with 10 to 12 people stranded on Sunderdhunga glacier.

Eight columns of the Army have also been deployed in 08 districts of North Western UP. 2,500 people have been evacuated to safer places in Pilibhit district and 260 people have been moved to safer places near Palwal.

Army has so far deployed 19 medical teams in Uttarakhand with each team led by a doctor. Around 45 satellite phones have also been deployed in various parts of the state to enable stranded people to contact their families. More than 2300 people used Army communication facilities to talk to their loved ones at home.

The Army said it jas evacuated 18,500 people so far and deployed 10,000 soldiers for rescue and relief operations.

The first C 130J aircraft landed at Dharasu (a landing ground only 1300 feet long) in the early morning on Saturday for the first time despite inclement weather.

On landing the massive aircraft defueled 8000 litres of fuel into an empty bowser which was airlifted yesterday from Sarsawa by a Mi 26 helicopter.

With the availability of additional fuel now at Dharasu, the extraction, evacuation and rescue operations have picked up pace and the available helicopters are now able to make more number of trips.

Apart from the carrying fuel to Dharasu, the first C130 J on its return trip carried about 40 and the second about 100 injured and stranded pilgrims to the safer plains of Air Force Station Hindan.

An emergency medical centre has been set up at Air Force Station Hindan for the medical check-up of all the arriving tourists for immediate attention.

The first two C 130J aircraft carried fuel to Dharasu while the third is carrying a Medical team of the IAF to attend to sick people at Dharasu itself before they are moved out to safer place.

Having paved the way for fixed wing aircraft landing at Dharasu, the IAF pressed its An 32 aircraft also into action.

These aircraft are carrying Disaster Communication equipment vehicle, some more aviation fuel, Sudan pumps for refueling the helicopters and 4,200 kgs of bridging equipment of BRO.

The heavy lift Mi 26 helicopter will also be airlifting the heavy equipment of BRO to facilitate road repair and construction work.

While the fuel bridging has given impetus to rescue operations, increased flying activity in the narrow valleys is posing a new challenge to traffic management and safe flying.

The IAF has inducted additional personnel to ensure smooth planning, coordination and execution of flying operations, be it Air Force, Army or civilian operators.

Since Saturday since morning, till 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the IAF said it flew about 149 sorties in which 26,700 kgs of load and 1,355 passengers were airlifted.

In all, the IAF towards 'Op Rahat', has flown 768 sorties in which 1,03,350 kgs of load has been dropped or landed and 5,347 passengers airlifted.

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