Landslides, rain hit rescue work in Uttarakhand

Fresh spell of rains and landslips at a number of places including the higher reaches of Pauri, Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts today hit rescue operations in Uttarakhand where 10,000 survivors still remained to be taken to safety.

Not a single chopper has so far been able to take off from Sahasradhara helipad to rescue stranded pilgrims at Badrinath and affected pockets adjacent to it.

The same is the situation in Guptkashi and Gauchar from where no helicopter has so far been able to take off because of a thick veil of mist enveloping the area and intermittent rains.

“About 5,000 people are yet to be evacuated from Badrinath and not even a single chopper has so far been able to take off from Sahasradhara helipad here to rescue stranded pilgrims at the shrine and affected pockets adjacent to it,” Retd Wing Commander Capt R.S. Brar, who has been entrusted with the task of overseeing air rescue operations in the affected areas, told PTI.

“I am myself sitting in an aircraft since this morning waiting for the weather to clear up so that we could start our operations,” he said.

However, one redeeming fact is that relief material like food packets and medicines have been made available to people stranded at most places including Badrinath, he said.

Reports from Chamoli and Pauri districts said it was raining in the higher reaches hampering chopper operations. The state capital Dehradun was also drenched with rain.

Fresh landslips on Badrinath highway has also choked the route.

Capt Brar said chopper operations will resume the moment the weather improves.

However, he said there is no cause for much worry as teams of doctors besides relief material have reached the affected people who are still stranded.

With inclement weather affecting chopper operations, the state government’s plans to launch a final combing operation in the worst-hit Kedarnath Valley in search of possible stranded pilgrims in pockets has also hit a roadblock.

However, official sources said an IAF chopper has been sent from Gauchar to Badrinath axis to assess the weather and find out whether it would be possible to resume rescue operations in the area where the majority of stranded pilgrims are located.

Kedarnath Valley, the temple town which was the epicentre of the floods and landslides, was yesterday cleared of all stranded pilgrims in stepped up rescue operations.

Disaster management minister Yashpal Arya had yesterday said that, “At least 5,000 people must have been killed in the deluge that inflicted heavy damage on vast tracts of land especially in Kedarnath valley.”

The official death toll as of yesterday was put at 680 while chief minister Vijay Bahuguna said the death toll is likely to be around 1,000.

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