Rescue operations on; 8 choppers dropping food and water in flood-hit areas

The State government has set up control rooms in AP Bhavan, New Delhi (phone: 011-23384188, 011-23782644), Dehradun, and Hyderabad (040-23451043) to monitor the developments, including supply of food and water to pilgrims stranded in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy informed the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday that 50,000 pilgrims, including 3,000 from the State were stranded at various places en route Char Dham.

All the stranded passengers were safe and the Uttarakhand government had intensified rescue and relief operations to bring the pilgrims back.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna told him over telephone that a dozen helicopters had been pressed into service this afternoon as the incessant rain receded. Eight of the 12 choppers commenced dropping food, water and other essentials to the stranded pilgrims.

The pilgrims remained stranded because a 70-km stretch had been damaged, making the area inaccessible to the Army, personnel of the National Disaster Response Force and other agencies. There were difficulties in accessing the stranded members as there was no communication with them.

He said control rooms would be opened in the AP Bhavan and the State capital to keep the relatives of the pilgrims informed about the developments while officials had been deputed to Dehradun to oversee the measures for bringing back pilgrims. A team of doctors would be positioned in Dehradun to take care of the needy patients from the State.

Sources said it would take at least two days for the Uttarakhand administration to evacuate the pilgrims to safer places and plans were under way to airlift them to Dehradun or Haridwar, if weather permitted, for their onward journey to native places.

Due to heavy rains and landslips, the helicopters are unable to carry out sorties.

The government had instructed officials in New Delhi to arrange adequate number of buses to transport pilgrims back to the capital. The Indian Railways had been requested to operate a special train from Dehradun to carry the pilgrims to either New Delhi or Hyderabad.