Presiding over the second high-level review meeting of the ongoing relief and rescue work by the armed forces in rain-ravaged Uttarakhand, Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Monday said “Our efforts will continue till the last survivor is rescued to safety.’’
Mr. Antony complimented the Army and the Air Force for continuing their rescue missions despite bad weather conditions. The review meeting was attended by the National Security Adviser, the three Services chiefs and top Defence Ministry officials.
The meeting also discussed the role of the armed forces in reconstruction work in Uttarakhand after completion of the relief and rescue work.
Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne also sought to reach out to the people stranded in the upper and remote areas of Uttarakhand. “Our helicopter rotors will not stop churning till such time we get each one of you out, do not lose hope and hang in there.’’
IAF has deployed 45 of its choppers in relief operations along with the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft which are supplying fuel and transporting stranded persons from there to Hindon air base on the outskirts of Delhi. On Monday despite bad weather and rains, IAF flew 116 sorties of its various choppers and rescued 1,095 pilgrims.
The Air Force has since June 17 airlifted 10,731 persons flying 1,163 sorties and dropping or landing 1,84,262 kg relief material and equipment.
The Army used both choppers and land route to evacuate people.
In Badrinath sector, 281 people were moved by land route after the construction of rope bridge across Alaknanda at Lam Bagar on Joshimath-Badrinath road. Army also created Heli Bridge at Lam Bagar in addition to the foot bridge, officials said here.
Two Army helicopters and three civil helicopter ferried people from Badrinath and as many as 800 people moved towards Joshimath with 450 using heli bridge and the rest using ropeways of Army.
In Uttarkashi sector, MI 17 helicopters made 16 sorties evacuating 402 people by helicopter from Harsil while 683 people reached Uttarkashi on foot. Army established staging areas stocked with food, water and medicines at Sukhi and Gagnani for the evacuees.
In the Kedarnath sector, Army special troops with mountaineering skills continued search and rescue operations to link up with stranded people, if any, between Jungle Chatti and Rama Bara. Despite inclement weather conditions predicted for the next two days, Army’s relentless efforts to provide succour, rescue and relief will continue 24x7, senior Army officers said.
Approximately 1,400 people are awaiting evacuation at Harsil, 50 at Dharali and 60 at Jhala in Uttarkashi region and 5,000 people are still stranded at Badrinath.
As rains hampered rescue operations, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police on Monday said it may take another three days to resume the evacuation process of stranded victims in Uttarakhand.
Most of the people from Kedarnath area have been rescued while there are a few held up at Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, who are being “slowly evacuated,” ITBP Director General Ajay Chadha said here.
“We can resume the rescue operations once air sorties can be conducted,” he said, adding that the weather was expected to improve by June 28.
He said ITBP personnel have so far recovered 125 bodies, while the NDRF has recovered around 400. ITBP has deployed Netra UAV in service for search and rescue operations by scanning the terrain in the remote areas of Kedarnath, Bhairav Chotti and Jungle Chotti. There are personnel on the ground to search for any survivor, Mr. Chadha said.
The ITBP team has also repaired the route from Badrinath to Hanuman Chatti which is being used for foot rescue operations.
The DRDO also chipped in, saying it was helping out those stranded by providing them food packets and water. From Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), Gwalior, a team of scientists with first-aid kits, detection kits as well as insect repellents have been sent to affected areas.