Thirteen days after the Uttarakhand disaster,rescue workers were today near the end of their mammoth mission with Harshil sector totally evacuated. In Badrinath,where around 1,400 people are still stranded,they made a final push to bring them to safety.
With 3,000 people reported missing in the floods and landslides after heavy rains pounded the hill state on June 15,
visiting Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh sent a word of comfort that his troops and IAF personnel will continue their operations till the last person is evacuated.
“Our endeavour is to locate all our citizens,wherever they are,and get them out,” Gen Singh told reporters in Gauchar after his interaction with his officers and men.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde,who was on a second visit to Dehradun since the disaster struck the state,said all-out effort will be made by the multi-agency operations to locate those who are still trapped in the debris and the missing.
“The Air Force will deploy more MI-17 helicopters to evacuate all people on a war footing. The helicopter fleet will be stationed in Uttarakhand for 15 more days,” he told reporters.
S Sasidhar Reddy,Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA),said so far 1,04,095 people have been rescued. “But 1,400 people in Badrinath are yet to be rescued,” he told reporters in Delhi.
During a hearing on a PIL in the Supreme Court,the Uttarakhand government said rescue operations will be over by tomorrow. It said pilgrims waiting to be evacuated in Badrinath were safe and that there was no shortage of water and food material.
Mass cremation of bodies in Kedarnath,the worst-affected in the flood fury,is also on,as authorities are racing against time to minimise risks of an epidemic outbreak.
He said priority would be given to evacuate the sick,old and disabled people,along with women,a large number of whom are stranded in the Badrinath area.
State government officials said that with the weather improving,17 helicopters took off to rescue an estimated 1,237 people stuck at different places in the hill state,with the Harshil sector totally cleared of pilgrims. About 3,000 people are still reported missing,they said.
The focus now is on Badrinath Dham area,where majority of the pilgrims are stranded,they said.
A clear picture also emerged today on the extent of devastation in the hill state.
“Out of the total 22,000 villages in the state,2,375 have been affected,” Reddy said.
“Out of them,1,636 have been connected so far while the rest 739 are yet to be connected,” he added.
Gen Singh,who is on a day-long visit to affected areas,said he had asked his commanders to launch relief operations in “very,very difficult conditions” in a proactive manner,without waiting for any requisition from authorities.
“We are getting information that there may still be some survivors in certain areas. Like I am told,yesterday we had an input that in north of Badrinath there were some people,40 of them.
We had launched sorties yesterday but couldn’t detect them. We will be doing it again,if the weather permits” he added.