Death toll mounts, heavy rains may hit rescue ops in Uttarakhand

There seems to be no end to the tragedy in Uttarakhand as the death toll has reached over 500 even as the rescue operations are being carried out on war footing by different agencies.

Updated: Jun 22, 2013, 00:15 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Dehradun: There seems to be no end to the tragedy in Uttarakhand as the death toll has reached over 500 even as the rescue operations are being carried out on war footing by different agencies. The situation is likely to be worsened with the weather department predicting heavy rains in the state.

While the authorities have been able to rescue over 34,000 people so far, as many as 50,000 are still stranded in different parts of the state. Though the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) Director General has assured that all the stranded pilgrims would be rescued within two days, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has said that the rescue operations may take up at least 15 days.

"It`s very tragic that so many people have died in this calamity... It will take another 15 days to complete evacuation."

He said that evacuation of the stranded by the military and other security forces was taking time because roads had been badly damaged.

Bahuguna said the Uttarakhand government was very close to putting up a doppler radar to predict weather "but there were certain concerns by various ministries".

He added, "No authority or body could have handled the calamity of this scale and magnitude."
Bahuguna admitted that Uttarakhand did not meet the norms of national disaster management, but said his administration was never warned about a cloudburst that ravaged Kedarnath.

Meanwhile, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Inspector General Sandeep Rai Rathore said on Friday that June 22 and 23 are "key dates" and all the agencies are maximising their efforts to carry out the majority of relief and rescue work during this time.

"We know that rains may come anytime and the Meteorological department has also predicted rains in the near future. So we are geared up for that," Rathore said.

Earlier on Friday, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who is slated to visit the state on Saturday, further said that toll might go up as the debris were yet to be cleared.
Following this, ITBP DG Ajay Chadha said that the rescue operations would be majorly completed by Saturday.

He further said, “Rescue operations have gathered pace as the weather has improved, the Army jawans are helping us; also, the three battalions of the force (about 3,000 troops) deployed in the state have rescued thousands of people.”

About 4,000 people have been rescued by the force from the area, he said.

Chadha added, “We are also trying to establish bridge connectivity to Badrinath. Pilgrims from Pandukeshwar will also be evacuated by Saturday.”

While assuring that no one will be left stranded in the flood affected area, Chadha said, “Almost all the people have been rescued from Kedarnath but we`ll remain there till we`re sure no one is left stranded.”

“All the government agencies are working in a perfect co-ordination to rescue people,” Chadha said.

The ITBP chief also asserted that, "Apart from pilgrims we have also rescued local residents in Uttarakhand. We are passing on all the information to the Uttarakhand government."

The rescue operations are going on in the state on a war footing launched by multiple agencies including the Army, IAF and ITBP since the heavy monsoon rains pounded the state a week ago.

The IAF, meanwhile, deployed 13 more aircraft for relief and rescue work, taking to 43 the total number of planes in operation.

The aircraft including IAF`s heavylift Mi-26 helicopters --the world`s largest chopper--for transporting fuel and heavy equipment required by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to clear roads closed due to landslide and also set up an airbridge in one affected area to pull out stranded persons.

As the terrible magnitude of nature`s fury continued to unfold and survivors spoke of untold miseries, the death toll was expected to rise with Uttarakhand Principal Secretary Rakesh Sharma saying casualty figures can be "shockingly high".

With PTI inputs