2,500 await rescue at Badri
As the mammoth rescue operation in Uttarakhand neared completion on Thursday, around 2,500 survivors are yet to be evacuated in Badrinath and Harsil, but concern is rising over the fate of 3,000 people still missing.
Amid fears of an epidemic outbreak, the focus shifted to retrieving bodies buried in debris and expediting the mass cremation of more victims in Kedarnath town, which bore the brunt of destruction from floods and landslides after heavy rains pounded the hill state nearly a fortnight ago.
Hampered by intermittent rains, rescue efforts continued throughout Thursday, with over 1,000 pilgrims from Badrinath and 511 from Harsil being evacuated, a state official said. Air sorties by helicopters were halted for a few times due to bad weather. A total of 104,095 people have been evacuated so far, NDMA vice-chairman M. Shashidhar Reddy said.
Sixteen more bodies of victims who died in the disaster in Kedarnath were cremated on Thursday, said Ravinath Raman, a senior IAS officer overseeing mass cremations.
Uttarakhand chief secretary Subhash Kumar said more bodies will be cremated in batches after all formalities like identification and preservation of DNA samples were completed.
With the Army, IAF, ITBP and NDMA fine-tuning their strategy to complete the rescue mission, Lt. Gen. Anil Chait, GOC-in-C, Central Command, felt “Operation Surya Hope” could be wrapped up in the next few days. The general, in an act of solidarity, even walked a part of the way with those being evacuated on foot from Pandukeshwar to Govindghat. The NDMA’s Mr Reddy said he was hopeful the rescue work could be over as early as Friday.