Only about 1,100 people could be lifted out of the disaster zone in Uttarakhand on Wednesday,with tens of thousands still stranded in the hills that continued to be cut off. Twenty-two helicopters belonging to the IAF and private operators were pressed into service,17 of which concentrated exclusively on evacuating survivors.
Most evacuations were carried out in the Kedarnath valley. But over 20,000 people,including pilgrims,were still to be airlifted in Rudraprayag district where Kedarnath is located,the disaster monitoring and control room in Dehradun said.
Among those evacuated from Rudraprayag on Wednesday was district magistrate Vijay Dhondiyal,apparently after he developed a medical condition. No official word on the officers health was forthcoming,but a source in the state government suggested he had been affected by the stress.
He had perhaps suffered angina pain. He has been admitted to a local hospital in Dehradun. He was disturbed by the scale of the disaster in his district, the source said.
Various state governments,including Mahararashtra,West Bengal,Rajasthan and Karnataka,have sent ministers and senior officers to collect information on people from their states who may be trapped in the valleys of Alaknanda,Bhagirathi or Mandakini. Our government has sent us to locate the pilgrims who are from West Bengal and make arrangements for their return to our state. We are in touch with the Uttarakhand transport department, Bengal transport and sports minister Madan Mitra told The Indian Express.
Maharashtra additional resident commissioner Pradeep Kumar,who has been camping at the control room,said: There are reports about people in Gaurikund,Sitapur and Uttarkashi. We are trying to help all those who are contacting the control room for information on relatives from our state.
Karnataka has sent DIG (Internal Security) Hemant Nimbalkal and Social Welfare Commissioner Navin Rai. Both officers were seen studying maps of Uttarakhand. We are trying to gather whatever information we can get about our people and ensure their return, Nimbalkal said.
Sources in the control room said rescue was hobbled by the fact that helicopters operating at high altitudes were unable to lift more than six people at a time. The choppers were also operating only during daylight hours,and finding it difficult to evacuate survivors in narrow valleys.
Uttarakhand director-general (Information) Vinod Sharma said Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna had visited the Kedarnath shrine in the morning. New teams of the Army and ITBP reached Kedarnath today. They went there on foot,looking out for trapped pilgrims or villagers, Sharma said. We are sending teams of doctors and life-saving drugs to relief camps, he added.
Meanwhile,the Pangala-Dharchula area in Pithoragarh district faced fresh landslides Wednesday,in which at least four people were reported to have suffered injuries.