Over 2,500 calls received in three days from India and abroad

More than 2,500 calls, including several from outside India, have been received at the makeshift Uttarakhand Disaster Control Centre at the Uttarakhand Niwas here during the past three days, with anxious relatives of the stranded pilgrims desperately seeking the whereabouts of their loved ones.

The control centre has a landline number, 011-23010158, and two mobile numbers, 9990831003 and 9718972333, of the Information Department officials. “Although several helpline numbers have been announced to provide information about the rescued pilgrims and other information about the rescue operation, we have received several complaints about phone calls not being attended to at these helplines. Ours is the only control centre where we make sure that all the phone calls are attended to and queries of the worried callers are satisfactorily replied. I sleep with my mobile phone switched on to ensure that no call goes unanswered, even at night,” said Senior Assistant Information Officer Chetan Pandey, who is almost single-handedly manning the control centre at the Niwas.

“Most of those calling at the centre say they had last spoken to their relatives on June 15 or June 16 and there has been no communication since then. We have sent 30 satellite phones through the rescue teams to the pilgrims stranded at different points to allow them to communicate with their relatives. The callers are told that details of the rescued pilgrims are being regularly updated at the Uttarakhand Government website www.uk.gov.in., and on visiting the website they can find whether their family members have been rescued so far or not,” Mr. Pandey said.

The official said there are also instances of worried relatives making repeated calls, desperately seeking the whereabouts of their family members. “Often the callers break into tears and become inconsolable while making the calls. Many of them have been calling repeatedly to learn about the well-being of their near and dear ones. I have been receiving calls from a man in Oman seeking information about his family members, but we are helpless in giving any information beyond the website addresses, helpline numbers and the update on the rescue operation. We have also received over half-a-dozen calls from New York and some foreign embassies,” said Mr. Pandey.

The Uttarakhand Government has also pressed into service all the registered cabs in Dehra Dun to ferry stranded pilgrims and also four to five coaches have been reserved in trains to provide free journey to the rescued pilgrims, he added.