Zee Media Bureau
Gauchar: Mass cremation of bodies of hundreds of people killed in floods and landslides in Uttarakhand was delayed on Tuesday amid fears of disease outbreak, as heavy rains hampered rescue operations for the second day.
Rescuers battled rains to evacuate 1,000 more stranded people including from Badrinath but around 7,000 people including 4,000 in the pilgrim town of whom 1,500 were locals, were 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, officials said.
With rescue operations being disrupted by cloudbursts coupled with torrential rains, IAF flew lesser sorties today and evacuated about 500 people including 120 from Badrinath. The 500 people earlier rescued from the Himalayan shrine were safely brought from the upper reaches to Joshemath by road, a distance of 44 km.
Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar told reporters in Dehradun that IAF choppers rescued 120 people from Badrinath and 327 from Hershil.
127 more bodies were recovered since yesterday from Kedarnath area. At least 15 corpses were found floating in Ganga in different districts of Uttar Pradesh including Muzaffarnagar, Bulandshahr and Bijnore, taking the toll in the tragedy to 822, officials said.
The IAF, Army and Uttarakhand administration launched a massive operation to send logistics like firewood and fuel for conducting last rites of those killed in the worst-hit Kedarnath Valley.
Multiple 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 area as the tragedy is ten days old now.
Truck loads of dry Deodar wood and ghee have been despatched to Kedarnath and efforts were underway to conduct mass ritual cremation of bodies strewn over the premises after their identification, post mortem and DNA preservation formalities, a senior police official said.
With the bodies already beginning to putrefy, the air is laden with a foul stench giving rise to fears of an epidemic outbreak in affected areas.
State DGP Satyabrat Bansal said the DNA of unidentified bodies were being preserved and it is hoped that the weather clearns tomorrow to facilitate the cremation.
Centre, Uttarakhand govt submit report
The Centre and the Uttarakhand government today informed the Supreme Court that the rescue and relief operations and the evacuation of those stranded across the flood-hit state will be completed in the next 72 hours.
In its Action Taken Report (ATR) submitted to the Supreme Court, the state government said that the clearing of debris from different areas is high on its agenda.
Responding to a query from the Supreme Court about the rescue work being completed so far, the state government said that it aims to complete the evacuation of all the stranded pilgrims in next 72 hours if weather remains favourable.
The Action Taken Report also says that the top priority is identification and disposal of dead bodies. Efforts are being made for listing of missing people, the report added.
The submission was made after the Supreme Court asked the Centre and Uttarakhand government to step up rescue operations to evacuate people caught in flash floods in the state.
A bench of justices AK Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi said the governments should consider the suggestions to be submitted by the petitioner who had moved the PIL for the rescue of people and posted the case for further hearing on June 28.
In its ATR, the Centre said that a total of 1189 air sorties were done by the Indian Air Force while the Army has carried out 419 sorties.
By June 23, total 96,500 people were evacuated by all agencies and free transport is being arranged for all people to reach their respective destinations and more than 4000 vehicles have been deployed to bring the stranded people to Haridwar and Dehradun, the ATR said.
The report said that 80 per cent of telecommunication facilities have been restored and 77 satellite phones have been distributed by the Centre to various agencies.
The state government further said there is no shortage of food items and essential supplies in the disaster affected areas and 50,000 bottles of water and 50,000 packets of biscuits and 45,000 ready to eat food packets have been made available and the government is organising relief camps for the disaster affected people at 62 different places.
The report said, that approximately four lakh chlorine tablets have been distributed in the affected districts and another five lakh would be sent in another two days.
Met warns of more rains
Meanwhile, the Met department has warned of more rains over the next 24 hours in Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Dehradun.
"We`re expecting rains across the state. Heavy rains are possible in Uttarkashi and Chamoli and rescue operations will be affected. Rains across the state are expected on Wednesday too,” a Met department official was quoted as saying.
With Agency inputs