Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi/Dehradun: Amid predictions of heavy rainfall in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand by the weather department, Army has evacuated the entire Gangotri region on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the rescue operations are being carried out on war footing in other affected areas here by different agencies as the death toll from flash floods and landslides may cross 1,000 today.
While showing extraordinary courage the Indian Air Force (IAF) virtually established an aviation fuel supply bridge at Dharasu in Uttarkashi to give greater impetus to rescue operations that have been severely restricted due to non-availability of aviation fuel in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand.
Earlier in the day, the Army had shifted some 18,000 stranded people to safer places braving adverse conditions.
"About 8,500 Army jawans are continuously working to locate the people still stranded in most difficult of places and shift them to safer areas and so far some 18,000 people from Gangotri, Joshimath, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Pindari glacier among other places have been evacuated," GOC-in-Chief of Central Command, Lt Gen Anil Chait told reporters here.
As many as 19 medical centres and rest houses have been set up for providing medical aid and rest to the rescued people, Chait said, adding about 40,000 square km area in the hill state has been affected due to flood fury in the rivers caused by cloudburst and about 400 km road network in the Char Dham route has been affected.
"Some people stranded on the bridge on the Alaknanda on the road from Badrinath to Joshimath and Rudraprayag have been saved," Lt Gen Chaith said.
Army Chief General Bikram Singh had also said that efforts have been stepped up to evacuate people stranded in the hilly terrain as "time is limited".
Army has also increased its footprint to over 6,000 personnel from 500 for the operation.
"...Time is limited. We have window till tomorrow because I have been told that weather might turn bad again but we are rushing our people there.”
"Yesterday we landed our paratroopers...We are trying to reach even those areas where there is nobody at the moment just to ensure that in case if anybody is stuck over there, we will be able to get them out from there," Singh said.
He was addressing reporters after reviewing the Combined Graduation Parade at the Air Force Academy at Dundigal on the city outskirts.
Describing the flash floods and cloudbursts in Uttarakhand, wherein a large number of people have died and thousands still feared missing as "very sad and a big tragedy", the Army Chief said, "We have increased the Army`s footprint from 500 to over 6,000 at the moment".
"It`s a time consuming effort...Because of rains, the roads are washed away. The accessibility is restricted but that not withstanding, we are doing our best because it is very important to save precious lives and important to ensure that we address aspirations of our countrymen who are there," he said.
Singh said that efforts are underway to ensure that Army personnel move forward to the difficult terrain with necessary logistics like medicines, rations etc. To extricate those who are marooned due to the unprecedented calamity. "We are trying to assuage their sufferings and give them basic necessities," he added.
The army chief also pointed out that a comprehensive plan involving various agencies like the Air Force, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Defence, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Uttarakhand government is put in place to expedite the rescue operations.
With PTI inputs