Air rescue operations resumed after a brief suspension due to bad weather early this morning to evacuate over 22,000 stranded people in flood-hit Uttarakhand even as ITBP jawans began constructing foot tracks to speed up the evacuation work.
The evacuation exercise has been stepped up in view of the MeT department warning of light to moderate rains in the region from tomorrow,officials said.
ITBP DIG Amit Prasad told reporters at Gauchar that foot tracks are being built in an area of about 50 kms near Badrinath to evacuate stranded pilgrims.
“This is being done to reduce our dependence on weather,which may hamper air rescue operations. These roads are being built in Mana outpost near the shrine. About 200 ITBP jawans are engaged in the exercise,” he said.
About 70,000 pilgrims have been evacuated so far from the worst-hit Rudraprayag,Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts where the famous Himalayan shrines of Kedarnath,Badrinath,Gangotri and Yamunotri are located.
Over 40 choppers and 10,000 army and paramilitary personnel are engaged in the rescue operations following one of the worst calamities that hit the hill state last week.
Moderate rains in Dehradun and Joshimath delayed start of rescue operations early this morning but they resumed as the weather cleared up after about an hour,official sources said.
Meanwhile,the Centre is working on a long-term plan for the reconstruction of the extensively damaged areas in rain-hit Uttarakhand,Congress leader Ambika Soni said today.
“In the hour of crisis,the entire nation stands in solidarity with the people of the state,” Soni,AICC General Secretary and incharge of Congress President’s Office,said on her arrival here.
A long-term plan is in the offing to reconstruct and renovate areas near the Himalayan shrine of Kedarnath which bore the brunt of the calamity,she said.
Soni arrived here for the first time after assuming charge of party affairs in the state along with party treasurer Motilal Vora and Haryana Chief Minister B S Hooda to take stock of the rescue efforts.
About 500 pilgrims may still be stranded in Jungle Chatti area of Rudraprayag district and efforts are on to evacuate them as early as possible,the ITBP DIG said.
Two helipads have been built at Gauri Gaon and Rambada area near Kedarnath.
The toll in the unprecedented tragedy has risen to 680 with 123 bodies being recovered from Kedarnath area and Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna saying the casualty figures may touch the 1,000 mark given the massive scale of devastation.
Bahuguna also said the rehabilitation of Kedarnath shrine is a top priority of the government and it will be carried out after taking suggestions from the Archaeological Survey of India.
Disaster management authorities here said the focus has shifted to Badrinath where nearly 7,000-8,000 pilgrims are still stuck,as Kedarnath Valley has been totally cleared of stranded pilgrims.
They have been provided with enough food material and medicines,the authorities said.
Bahuguna said the bodies being recovered from different places in the state will be disposed of as per traditional rituals and a ‘mahayagya’ will be held in Haridwar on the 13th day of the tragedy for the peace of the departed souls.
This was suggested by the Sant Samaj when Bahuguna and Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde met them in Haridwar yesterday.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who met Bahuguna after undertaking an aerial survey of the affected areas yesterday offered all help to the state government in
reconstructing the flood-ravaged Kedarnath shrine into one of the most modern temples in the country.