Racing against time, thousands of combat-ready Armed Forces personnel on Sunday used some of their best military skills to rescue hundreds of exhausted, stranded tourists in the flood-affected areas of Uttarakhand.

The Army on Sunday evacuated all the 1,000-odd pilgrims stranded in the mountain folds around Jungle Chatti in Kedar Valley. Using cliff-assault techniques, skilled mountain rescue troops of the Army evacuated some 450 people through some of the most dangerous slopes in Kedar Valley. The pilgrims were given food, fresh water, medical aid, blankets and plastic sheets at Gauri Kund army camp before further evacuation to Sonprayag.

Launching two columns simultaneously from Dharasu and Barkot, the Army reached Hanuman Chetti on Saturday and surged towards Janak Chatti and Yamunotri on Sunday morning and evacuated all the stranded pilgrims at Yamunotri.

On Sunday, the Army launched Phase 3 of its ‘Surya Hope’ operation, which would focus on evacuating people by road from the hubs at Harsil, Gauri Kund and Badrinath. Inclement weather conditions did not stop the Army from continuing its operations both with helicopters and ground troops. Army helicopters were pressed into service by afternoon at Govindghat and Jungle Chatti.

The Army also air-lifted hygiene and sanitation stores, chemicals, blankets, food packets and medicines to the affected areas. Two medical aid centres each have been opened at Gaurikund, Goucher, Joshimath and Harsil.

Meanwhile, IAF helicopters started their operations in the Harsil sector. Six AN- 32 sorties airlifted bridging equipment, 50 Para troops with 2000 kg load, fuel barrels and two IAF Disaster Management Communication Vehicles. By Sunday afternoon, the Air Force had airlifted about 2094 persons. It flew about 180 sorties.

The progressive effort of the IAF for “Operation Rahat’’ shows a total of 1088 sorties flown, 8222 persons airlifted and about 1,48,550 kg load dropped.

U.S. assistance

International assistance started pouring in with the U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell announcing that the U.S. would be providing $150,000 through the United States Agency for International Development to non-governmental organisations working in the most-affected areas of the State.