No way back for the dead

Bodies decomposing,govt seeks nod of Shankaracharya for mass cremation

Written by Rahul Tripathi | Published:June 23, 2013 2:06 am

Unable to extricate them,the government plans mass cremation of the 680 people who perished in the floods in Uttarakhand.

Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and chief minister Vijay Bahuguna Saturday sought the approval of Shankaracharya Swami Sawroopanand Saraswati for the mass cremation.

“We are planning to go for mass cremation. Their families would be given ashes from the common lot. It is not possible to extricate the bodies now as they have started to decompose,” an official said. Their DNA samples and identification marks would be preserved so families could identify them later.

Rescue workers,meanwhile,recovered 123 more bodies around Kedarnath. The chief minister said the death toll could reach 1,000.

The rescue effort Saturday was focussed on Junglechatti,where 400 to 500 people are believed to be stranded,an official said. And since the weatherman has forecast heavy rain from Sunday night,rescue and relief agencies worked on a war footing and pressed into service the Russian-made MI-26 helicopters that can accommodate 150 passengers.

The army,ITBP and the air force evacuated 10,000 people from various places — the IAF flew 150 sorties and airlifted 1,355 people — but,according to the state government,at least 32,000 people are still stranded. The army will airlift two bridges to Gauchar Sunday.

The government has also imported 50 satellite phones from Congo on an emergency basis to help speed up rescue work that was being hampered for want of communication. “As of now,we have provided 25 satellite phones to all agencies involved,” Austin Eapen,ITBP’s DIG,Operations,said.

I&B minister Manish Tewari conceded that the rescue agencies were facing “operational difficulties as the terrain is inhospitable”. He,however,stressed that there “is seamless coordination between all state and central agencies”. This came hours after Shinde hinted at lack of coordination.

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