Disaster Management Department puts the number of deaths at 14

As many as 424 pilgrims from the State remain untraced in Uttarakhand as they have neither contacted their families nor have they been accounted in any of the relief camps or in AP Bhavan in New Delhi.

The government, nonetheless, is hoping that many of them might have reached safer areas or gone to their relatives’ houses in North Indian States. Even travel agencies have not bothered to keep the authorities posted with information about their whereabouts. The possibility of a limited few still remaining in the wilderness of mountains is not ruled out, in spite of assertions to the contrary by the authorities in Dehradun. A survey by unmanned aerial vehicles or sorties by conventional copters may be required to track them.

The Disaster Management Department arrived at the figure of 424 after culling out information from the Uttarakhand government, the families of those missing, district collectors in AP and the State level control room. Revising its earlier figure, it said 2,544 people had gone to Uttarakhand from the State. Of them, 822 were from Hyderabad, 1,200 had returned while 920 others were lodged in camps or were on their return journey. These details were furnished to Chief Secretary P. K. Mohanty, said Disaster Management Commissioner T. Radha. The department, however, is not sure even now about the number of casualties. It has officially confirmed 14 deaths. The Chief Secretary, who is in constant touch with his Uttarakhand counterpart, Subhash Kumar, told this correspondent that the AP Government would be present at Dehradun, etc, till the last pilgrim reached the State. A chartered flight was engaged to bring back all the pilgrims left behind in Dehradun to Hyderabad on the instructions of the Chief Minister.

Sick pilgrims were being given first priority in the special flights followed by the elderly and women and children. Those found physically fit would be sent to Delhi by road.