Death toll climbs to 822; fresh landslides, cloudbursts hamper rescue operations
Over 8,000 people remained stranded in Uttarakhand on Tuesday with fresh landslides, cloudbursts coupled with torrential rains hampering rescue operations as the death toll climbed to 822 with 142 bodies being found, including 127 in Kedarnath.
Rescue operations were suspended in Joshimath due to rains while landslips in Tehri district left a woman and a child dead. There were also reports of fresh cloudburst in Devprayag and heavy downpour in Augustya Muni in Rudraprayag.
127 more bodies were recovered since Monday from Kedarnath area. At least 15 bodies were found floating in the Ganga in different districts of Uttar Pradesh including Muzaffarnagar, Bulandshahr and Bijnore, taking the toll in the tragedy to 822, officials said.
Four choppers made sorties to Badrinath on Tuesday and only 60 people were evacuated when the weather cleared around noon, officials said, adding over 8000 people remain to be evacuated.
Foggy and overcast conditions in Dehradun had delayed take off by choppers at Sahasradhara helipad and Jolly Grant Airport but air rescue operations resumed with improvement in the weather.
The IAF, Army and Uttarakhand administration launched a massive operation to send logistics like firewood and fuel for conducting last rites of those killed in the worst-hit Kedarnath Valley.
Multiple agencies undertaking relief and rescue operations are increasingly getting worried about the imminent spread of diseases and the rotting of bodies in the temple town area as the tragedy is ten days old now.
Truck loads of dry Deodar wood and ghee have been despatched to Kedarnath and efforts were underway to conduct mass ritual cremation of bodies strewn over the premises after their identification, post mortem and DNA preservation formalities, a senior police official told PTI.
With the bodies already beginning to putrefy, the air is laden with a foul stench giving rise to fears of an epidemic outbreak in affected areas.
The Uttarakhand government has asked DIG police headquarters Sanjay Gunjyal and DIG Garhwal range Amit Sinha to ensure that the cremation process, which could not begin on Monday due to rains, starts on Tuesday at Kedarnath which was the worst hit by the calamity.
The IAF also landed its first big helicopter in the difficult Kedarnath area and dropped material needed for the mass funeral.
Search and rescue operations in Kedarnath and surrounding areas are over for all practical purposes.
“No survivors remain in the jungles around Kedarnath. They have all been brought out,” Ravinath Raman, nodal officer of rescue operations in Rudraprayag district, said in Guptkashi.
With rain in the morning hampering rescue operations from Badrinath where the majority of pilgrims remain stranded, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna appealed to their relatives not to run out of patience, saying they are safe with enough supplies of food and and medicines made available to them.
In Patna, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that he had asked the Uttarakhand government not to allow any VIP to land in the flood-ravaged areas to avoid any disturbance to relief work.
As rescue operations get stretched in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand, the ITBP on Tuesday decided to send in a fresh contingent of its troops and bring out those tired and exhausted.
The paramilitary force, according to sources, is replacing close to 45 men with an equal strength in the areas of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Harshil and Gaurikund.
100 evacuated in Himachal
In Himachal, about 100 people including tourists and sick persons were evacuated from Sangla, Hamgo, Rekong Peo and other places in the rain-ravaged tribal district of Kinnaur by State and IAF choppers.
60 persons, including some sick persons were airlifted from Sangla Valley to Rampur while nine sick people were evacuated from Hango. About a dozen people were airlifted from Rekong Peo.
Keywords: Uttarakhand floods, Rudraprayag district, Uttarakhand rescue, disaster management, Indian Army rescue, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Rudraprayag, Pauri, Himalayan rivers, National Disaster Relief Force, Gaurikund, Hemkund Sahib, Uttarakhand pilgrimage, Ravinath Raman, nodal officer of rescue operations