Zee Media Bureau
Gauchar: Even as the multiple agencies continued the relief and rescue operation in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Wednesday declared a day of mourning as a mark of respect to those killed in the IAF chopper crash yesterday.
The Chief Minister, while expressing grief over the chopper tragedy, announced Rs 10 lakh each for the families of the personnel who died in Tuesday`s chopper crash.
Bahuguna also promised free education to their children if they wish to study in Uttarakhand.
The five IAF personnel who died in the crash are Wing Commander Darryl Castelino, Flight Lieutenant K Praveen, Junior Warrant Officer AK Singh, Sargent Sudhakar Yadav and Flight Lieutenant Tapan Kapoor.
The Indian Air Force (IAF), defence and paramilitary personnel today resumed their rescue mission with focus now shifting to Joshimath, Badrinath and Harsil where over 5,000 people still need help.
According to reports, an estimated 4000 people are still stranded at Badrinath where there is no road connectivity due to recent landslides.
Nearly 1000 people need to be evacuated in Harsil. The security personnel involved in the rescue mission aim to airlift all those stranded in these two towns to safer places so that they can be given proper medical care, food and water.
Earlier this morning, IAF Chief NAK Browne arrived in Gauchar and said that his officials will not rest till the last stranded person is evacuated safely in the flood-hit Uttarakhand.
In his brief address to the media shortly upon his arrival here, the IAF Chief said, “Our rotors won’t stop churning. We will not rest till the last stranded person is rescued in the flood-devastated Uttarakhand.”
The IAF Chief also confirmed that the dead bodies all 19 people onboard the Mi-17 helicopter, which crashed while returning from a rescue mission near Gaurikund yesterday, have been recovered.
Browne also told the reporters that the cockpit voice recorder of the ill-fated chopper has also been recovered and the data stored in it will be analysed to determine the cause of the crash.
The IAF Chief also lauded the efforts put in by the personnel of the armed forces, paramilitary, the ITBP, NDRF and multiple other agencies in rescuing more and more people since the state was hit by torrential rains and landslides.
“I salute my boys and all other agencies involved in the relief and rescue operation here. The morale of my staff is extremely high and we will continue our mission till the last person is rescued safely.” he said.’
The IAF Chief further informed that two more IAF helicopters have been dispatched to bring more people stranded in Badrinath and Harsil.
The IAF Chief will visit the chopper crash site in a short while and review the relief and rescue operation being conducted there.
The IAF Chief’s visit has come as a major morale booster for the Air Force staff who have been braving the unfavourable weather to save more and more lives.
The Air Force last night said that its officers will continue the rescue operation despite an IAF helicopter crash near Gaurikund that killed at least 20 people.
The Air Force also ordered an inquiry into the incident to determine what led to the chopper crash.
Meanwhile, the Met department has predicted torrential rains today, which could trigger fresh landslides. Bad weather is also likely to obstruct the rescue operations in the upper regions of Uttarakhand.
Bad weather and fresh landslides have hampered air operations on Monday and Tuesday even as some sorties did take place when the weather cleared briefly.
Mass cremation of bodies of hundreds of people killed in floods and landslides in Uttarakhand was delayed yesterday amid fears of disease outbreak, as heavy rains hampered rescue operations for the second day.
Agencies undertaking relief and rescue operations are increasingly getting worried about the imminent spread of diseases and the rotting of bodies in the temple town of Kedarnath as the tragedy is ten days old now.
Rescuers battled rains to evacuate 1,000 more stranded people from Badrinath but around 6,000 people are still waiting to be rescued 10 days after the deluge.
The death toll rose to 822, with 142 bodies being found, including 127 in Kedarnath, the epicentre of destruction.
The IAF, Army and the Uttarakhand administration also launched a massive operation to send logistics like firewood and fuel for conducting last rites of those killed in the worst-hit Kedarnath Valley.
State DGP Satyabrat Bansal said the DNA of unidentified bodies was being preserved and it is hoped that the weather clears Wednesday to facilitate the cremation.
Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has warned there could be more bodies buried under the debris, which might add to the death toll.
With Agency inputs