Prove their mettle dropping paratroopers in some of the most inaccessible areas

Four Dhruv helicopters pressed into service by the Army in flood-hit Uttarakhand have proved their mettle in carrying out relief operations and dropping paratroopers in some of the most inaccessible areas. They have been focussing on the Gaurikund-Kedarnath region. Rescue work assumed urgency as the India Meteorological Department on Thursday forecast more rains in the Himalayan State from June 24 to 28. IMD Director-General L.S. Rathore said the next wet spell was likely to see light to moderate rainfall.

Launching one of the biggest rescue operations in Uttarakhand, the Army has mobilised nearly 8,100 troops, as it simultaneously reached out to thousands of stranded people in four regions — Rishikesh-Uttarkashi-Harsil-Gangotri; Rudraprayag-Kedarnath; Joshimath-Badrinath and Dharchula-Tawaghat in Pithoragarh district.

On Thursday, the Army opened the road up to Uttarkashi after clearing 16 landslips. It has also opened the road up to Sonprayag in the Kedarnath region after the successful launch of a bridge across the Vasuki Ganga between Mundkatiya and Sonprayag. As many as 2,500 stranded people have been evacuated from Sonprayag, thanks to this newly opened road. In all, the Army has rescued more than 11,000 people, mainly from Govindghat and Harsil. About 10,000 people are being provided food and medical assistance by the Army personnel,

As the Kedarnath shrine was totally cut off, especially the stretch between Gourikund and Sonprayag, troops skilled in mountain rescue operations, including paratroopers, were heli dropped to reach out to the people stranded in isolated areas along the Kedarnath and Badrinath region.

Officials in New Delhi said the HAL-built Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), which can carry 10-16 people on heights of 10,000 feet, performed effectively in dropping paratroopers and evacuating stranded people.

The Army has pressed into service 11 choppers, including four Dhruv ALH, for operations in Uttarakhand. They carried out about 50 sorties on Thursday. It has deployed 10 Specialised Mountaineering Teams in the worst-hit Kedarnath area and set up relief camps at Harsil, Joshimath, Rudraprayag and Gauchar Advanced Landing Ground (ALG). The Army has built a helipad at Lambaghat school at Govindghat. Efforts are on to repair the bridge over Alaknanda between Govindghat and Ghagria on Hemkund Sahib road.

The Air Force undertook about 102 sorties, evacuating nearly 1,300 stranded persons on Thursday, and dropped 20,000 kg of load. It has been operating four Dhruv ALH helicopters and two Mi-17 in the Gaurikund area. As many as 17 Mi-17 V5 and 11 ALH choppers are operating in the Dehradun, Shimla, Pithoragarh and Sarsawa areas.