Rescue affected by squally weather and lack of airlifting facility there

Even as a high-level team of Puducherry rushed to Uttarakhand to expedite rescue efforts, the rescue team is yet to reach Sukhitop, which is about 250 km from Rishikesh, where about 60 pilgrims of Puducherry are stranded for the last 5 days. A team led by the Minister for Local Administration N.G. Panneerselvam met the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Saturday at Dheradun requesting him to take effective steps to airlift the stranded pilgrims of Puducherry.

P.R. Meena, Resident Commissioner of Puducherry, who is camping at Dheradun, told The Hindu over phone that all details about the stranded pilgrims of Puducherry had been clearly told to the control room, which was coordinating the rescue efforts.

However, rescue efforts were delayed due to bad weather. It is said that though they had taken refuge at a temporary army tent at a hilltop, which is totally cut off from rest of the country, they had been without proper food, medicine, cloths and others.

“We are waiting for the response from the control room to airlift Puducherry pilgrims from Sukhitop, which is about 250 km from Rishikesh. We are continuing our efforts,” Mr. Meena said.

He added that the Puducherry pilgrims were stranded with about 250 persons from other States. Since there was no airlifting facility at Sukhitop, they had to first reach Harsil, which was about 15 km from Sukhitop, by foot. It was a tough task considering the worst condition of the footpath. From there they had to be airlifted to Chamoli, which was situated about 150 km from Rishikesh. If they reached Chamoli, then they could be easily brought back home.

Mr. Meena said the stranded pilgrims were in touch over telephone since Saturday morning. But they could not be contacted in the afternoon, possibly due to the poor facilities for mobile recharge. However, efforts were on to establish contact with them through other sources.

Asked about the possibilities of rescuing the pilgrims on Sunday, he said it was totally dependent on the weather condition. The weather was very poor on Saturday morning. However, there was a let up in the evening. The team was in close touch with the control room to send an air sortie to rescue Puducherry pilgrims as early as possible. To a question, he said though sincere efforts were taken to trace out K. Kumaresan, a professor of Karaikal, there was still no good news about his whereabouts.

Asked about the demand of relatives of stranded pilgrims to bring them back by air, Mr. Meena said it was not an issue. There wouldn’t be any problem for the government to provide air transport to them. The immediate priority was to bring them to a well connected town in Uttarakhand.

Meanwhile, Dr. Iqbal Singh, Lt. Governor of Puducherry called up Dr. Aziz Qureshi, Governor of Uttarakhand, requesting him to arrange for the rescue of 60 Puducherry pilgrims.