Rescue work in Uttarakhand to gain momentum with reopening of 16 roads

Rescue operations in Uttarakhand, hit until Thursday afternoon as helicopters faced bad weather, are now expected to speed up, as 16 roads that were blocked across the State were declared open on Thursday. They include roads reaching Guptkashi in Rudraprayag district and Joshimath in Chamoli district, which are very crucial routes for rescue operations.

According to the Border Roads Organisation, National Highway 94 from Rishikesh to Dharasu and National Highway 108 from Dharasu to Gangotri (up to 30 km) were also declared open for light vehicles.

Rakesh Sharma, Principle Secretary (Industries), said, “Going beyond Rudraprayag and Joshimath would be impossible for the next six months or even a year.”

Until Thursday evening, the number of deaths noted was 105, with an equal number of people injured, said Bhaskar Joshi, Secretary, Uttarakhand Disaster Mitigation Centre. However, the administration predicts a ‘shocking figure’ on the number of deaths once the survey of all the disaster-hit areas in the State is complete.

According to the centre, while 50,422 pilgrims are still stranded, 33,192 were rescued by helicopters.

Of the pilgrims stranded in Chamoli, Rudraprayag, and Uttarkashi districts, rescuing those stranded in Kedarnath and the surrounding valley is a priority as they had no access to food. Vacating pilgrims from Guptkashi and Gangotri were the next priorities as food and other material were sent to these places. Rescue operation at Badrinath would start on Saturday. Personnel on helicopters have been instructed to rescue the elderly, women and children first.

Mr. Joshi told The Hindu that of the 26 helicopters operated on Thursday, 14 rescued people from Kedarnath.