Even as the first batch of pilgrims, who were stranded in Uttarakhand, arrived here on Saturday recounting their ordeal, hundreds others from West Bengal remain trapped awaiting airlift.  

 “About 800 people are still stranded in Badrinath. Though food and shelter are available, people have turned restive and are making frantic calls for rescue,” West Bengal Minister for Planning Rachpal Singh, who is overseeing the rescue operations from Uttarakhand, told The Hindu over telephone. “The West Bengal government had approached the Uttarakhand government to enquire whether it could hire helicopters, but the request was turned down as the Army is overseeing the rescue operations,” Mr. Singh said.

“We are doing everything possible from our side to ensure that those stranded are able to return home,” Mr. Singh said, adding that over 170 people from the State had left on Friday night and over 100 more would be leaving late on Saturday.

  He expressed the hope that the road leading to Badrinath would be repaired soon so that those stranded could be brought to the nearest railheads.

  Speaking on the issue at an election rally in the State’s Bankura district, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that about 500 families from the State had been rescued so far and some 300 to 400 families were still stranded in Uttarakhand.

   Following the flash floods and landslips in Uttarakhand, Ms. Banerjee had sent two of her Ministers — Mr. Singh and Tourism Minister Madan Mitra — to rescue tourists from the State.

Camps set up

 The State government has set up camps at Haridwar and Rishikesh to aid stranded tourists from West Bengal.

 Meanwhile, those who arrived early in the morning at Howrah Station in two trains, Upasana Express and Doon Express, narrated their plight on how they had to go without food and water for days before being rescued.

An Eastern Railway release said that to clear the stranded tourists at Haridwar and Dehra Dun, it had despatched one special train comprising 15 coaches, which would be kept on the ready at either Haridwar or Dehra Dun by the Northern Railway. Besides, extra coaches are being attached to the Howrah-Haridwar Kumbh Express and Doon Express to bring home the stranded people.