Faced with warnings about the possibility of more rains from Monday, rescue and relief teams on Saturday stepped up their efforts in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, where torrential rains over the last weekend claimed at least 557 lives and caused widespread destruction of public and private properties.
Uttarakhand floods: 73,000 evacuated, rescue operations on
Faced with warnings about the possibility of more rains from Monday, rescue and relief teams today stepped up their efforts in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, where torrential rains over the last weekend claimed at least 557 lives and caused widespread destruction of public and private properties.
Rudraprayag district was the worst affected, accounting for 476 of those who had died, followed by 18 in Chamoli, 17 in Pithoragarh, 11 in Almora, 9 each in Uttarkashi and Dehradun, 5 in Tehri, 3 in Haridwar and 2 in Nainital.
As many as 19 bodies have so far been recovered floating in the river Ganga at Haridwar, Uttarakhand government sources in Dehradun said.
They said that at least 412 people were injured in the floods and landslides and at least 334 people were listed as missing in the nine affected districts.
More than 1400 heads of cattle also perished in the floods, which caught most people in the affected areas completely unawares and wrought untold havoc in the space of a few hours.
The sources said more than 2052 buildings and houses were completely destroyed or partially damaged.
As many as 147 bridges have been washed away or damaged and roads have been damaged at more than 1300 different locations.
As of this afternoon, more than 82,000 people had been evacuated from different places to safety while more than 22,000 people were still stranded in the affected areas.
Uttarakhand government sources said as many as 10,000 people were transported to safety today.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde visited some of the affected areas today and later held discussions with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and senior officials.
More than 60 helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF), Army and private operators made about 150 sorties today, taking the number of people evacuated by air till today to more than than 8800.
The sources said evacuation of stranded people from Hemkund, Ghangharia and Badrinath had started, with two helicopters being used for the purpose.
Evacuation of stranded people from Harsil in Uttarakhand is being carried out with two choppers and 150 persons have so far been brought to safety. Evacuation from Kedernath, the temple town that has been reduced to ruins, has been completed.
Search and rescue teams have evacuated from 470 people from the Jangalchetti area and the remaining 230 were expected to be moved out by this evening.
All the roads except Joshimath-Badrinath, Rudraprayag-Gaurikund and Uttarkashi-Gangotri have been opened. Communication has been restored in all the areas, they said.
Uttarakhand government sources said temporary bridges had been established at Govindghat and Ghangaria yesterdday.
The state government is arranging for free transport of all the stranded people to their destinations and special counters have been set up for the purpose in Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Haldwani and Kathgodam.
Additional coaches are being attached to different trains to help the pilgrims and tourists to return to their homes in different parts of India.
The sources said more than 4000 vehicles have been deployed to bring the stranded people to Haridwar and Dehradun and to other safe locations from the affected areas.
According to them, all the roads, except Joshimath-Badrinath, Rudraprayag-Gaurikund and Uttarkashi-Gangotri have been opened.
The sources said food packets, water and medicines were being sent to all the affected areas and relief camps have been set up at various locations. Medical teams have also been sent to the affected areas with medicines and equipment.
Stranded tourists have been allowed free access to all state guest houses as well as tourist rest houses of the state government.
According to the sources, communication links had been restored in most of the affected areas.
Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth, who is coordinating the rescue and relief efforts at the Centre, chaired a meeting of concerned Secretaries and senior officials from various agencies this evening to take stock of the situtation.
Apart from the Armed Forces and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), paramilitary forces and various state government agencies are involved in the search and rescue efforts.
The Army has dropped paratroopers at Rudraprayag-Kedarnath and was in the proces of plugging the breach on the Shivpuri Bund at Laksar.
The Army has also inserted about 100 paratroopers in small teams in the areas which have remained cut off in Pithoragarh, Joshimath, Dharchula and Gaucher.
Apart from carrying relief material, the Army has also been involved in restoration of telecommunication links, clearance of snow and boulders, clearance of helipads and establishment of radio detachments at critical areas.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has committed 43 aircraft to the operations, including 36 rotary wing aircraft( 23 Mi 17IV/Mi 17 V5, 11 Advanced Light Helicopters, 1 Cheetah, 1 Mi 26), two C130Js, three AN 32, one Avro and one IL76.
The IAF is also activating landing grounds at Gauchar and Dharasuin to establish an air bridge for chopper movement and plans to operate ALH and Cheetah from Gaucher. A heavylift Mi- 26 has already landed at Gaucher with 30 barrels of fuel and 70 paratroppers.
A C130J committed to recce mission to check valley clearance and facilitate further relief and rescue operations is also expected to land at Dharasu.
Mi 26 will continue to operate in this area to maintain supply of aviation fuel and rescue work and will also provide helilift to the heavy equipment of BRO for repairs and construction work as well as support construction of temporary helipads for better extraction of those stuck or stranded using small helicopters.
IAF has also started operating detachments at Pithoragarh and Joshimath.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has rescued moe than 15,000 people stranded in the Kedarnath, Gaurikund, Govindghat, Pandukeswar, Karnaprayag, Badrinath and Uttarkashi areas. It is making efforts to rescue thousands of others reported stranded in these and other places.
Official sources said the ITBP had evacuated all victims from Kedarnath Mandir area. Victims from Rambada area are being evacuated on foot to Kedarnath area from where they are being air lifted.
The ITBP was planning to build a bigger helipad to enable Mi-17 helicopters to land and take off from there so that the rescue efforts could be speeded up.
Teams of NDRF and ITBP are searching for victims in nearby areas. ITBP airlifted 350 victims from Gaurigaon and 275 victims from Rambada. In Kedarnath area, some victims who had climbed to nearby hills during the flooding were being brought down to lower areas from where they can be air lifted. Similarly trapped villagers from nearby areas are also coming to lower areas for evacuation.
Yesterday, ITBP made a foot track from Gaurikund to Sonprayag and 500 victims were evacuated on foot. A major breakthrough came in Badrinath axis where more than 10000 people are stranded. ITBP was able to make a rope bridge at, what used to be the Lambagad bridge over the river Alaknanda.
One rescue party of the ITBP evacuated about 400 victims from Badrinath on foot, who were brought to Pandukeshwar. A staging camp has been established at Pandukeshwar where these victims will stay for the night before being moved to Joshimath.
Two log bridges were constructed on fast flowing rivulets which were used to rescue 200 villagers stranded in upper reaches of nearby hills.
Three battalions and personnel of Mountaineering & Skiing Institute are helping to evacuate pilgrims stranded in various places.
In Uttarkashi district, pilgrims and local population affected by heavy rain, landslide, broken roads, flood and structural collapses are being rescued to safer places. They are being provided food, shelter and medical care by ITBP.
The Railways are running special trains to evacuate the stranded people from Uttarakhand free of cost.
The Ministry of Communications said 287 of the 739 communication towers in the state affected by the disaster and 167 of these had been made operational by today.
Aviation refuellers have been positioned at Rampur, Shimla and Gauchar and will be in place at Joshimath, Bageshwar, Dharasu and Pithoragarh. Backup supplies for these refuellers have been arranged from Ambala and Panipat Terminals.
Efforts are being made to supply liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to the distributors from Haridwar and Haldwani bottling plants in Uttarakhand. Similar arrangements are also being made for petrol, diesel and kerosene.
Air India will operate special flights from Dehradun to help clear the stranded travellers and offer a 50 per cent concession on the basic fares.
The Border Roads Organization (BRO) has taken up a massive road rehabilitation programme in the state. Official sources said a total of about 13 km length of road had been breached at about 100 places.
Major slides have occurred at 110 places and nine bridges have either been washed away or damaged.
BRO has pressed into service more than 90 excavators and bulldozers. About 4000 BRO personnel and labourers have been deployed for immediate clearance of road to facilitate relief and rescue efforts. Bridges have been airlifted to bridge gaps and establish early connectivity.
The sources said the Rishikesh-Gangotri road upto Uttarkashi had been opened for vehicular traffic. Beyond Uttarkashi, there are major breaches in the roads at many locations. From the Gangotri side, a part of the road upto Bhaironghati had also been opened. Efforts are on to restore the rest of the road at the earliest.
On the Rishikesh-Joshimath-Badrinath- Mana road, the section upto Govindhat has been opened. Beyond that point, there are major breaches. A 50 m brdge at Lambagarh has been washed away and a new bridge will be built there. A foot bridge is also being set up to facilitate crossing by foot.
The Rudraprayag-Gaurikund road is the worst affected in the state and efforts are on to restore it at the earliest.
The Army yesterday opened the road link from Sonprayag to Gaurikund, the base camp for the trek to Kedarnath. Approximately 1000 people stranded at Gaurikund are now being evacuated along the newly opened road to Sonprayag and Tehri.
Army paratroopers with specialized mountaineering equipment have reached out to people stuck in various gorges, ravines and nallas between Gaurikund yesterday.
In the Joshimath sector, Army constructed a temporary bridge across Alaknanda river near Govind Ghat to help stranded Hemkund Sahib pilgrims to cross over.
Army teams last night reached Gangotri for the first time since the floods and about 500 people there are now in the process of being evacuated to Harsil.
The Uttarakhand government is providing each evacuated person with Rs 2000 cash for any exigencies on their way back.
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