40 bodies recovered in Haridwar, toll crosses 200
Forty bodies of flood victims were on Friday recovered from Haridwar, taking the toll in the rain fury beyond 200 as operations to rescue over 9,000...
Forty bodies of flood victims were on Friday recovered from Haridwar, taking the toll in the rain fury beyond 200 as operations to rescue over 9,000 pilgrims stranded in Kedarnath and Badrinath were stepped up with the deployment of 40 helicopters. As the magnitude of the tragedy continued to unfold, Uttarakhand Principal Secretary Rakesh Sharma said casualty figures can be "shockingly high." In New Delhi, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said over 200 people have lost their lives while 50,000 people were still stranded in different inaccessible parts of Uttarakhand. "So far, 207 people lost their lives. But the toll may go up as debris in many areas is yet to be cleared," he told reporters. "We have evacuated 34,000 people from various parts of Uttarakhand but 50,000 people are still stranded. Our efforts are continuing to rescue all the stranded people," he said after a review meeting on the situation in Uttarakhand. In Haridwar, SSP Rajeev Swaroop said 40 bodies of those killed in the flash floods and incessant rains have been found. Rescuers were focusing on rain-ravaged Kedarnath area where 250 people are stranded before shifting focus to Badrinath where 9000 people are stuck, officials said. Terming it as the "worst tragedy of the millennium," Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat said, "It will take us at least five years to recover from the extensive damages caused to the entire infrastructure network in the Kedarnath area which is the worst affected." Mr. Rawat, who had visited the Kedarnath area, said that he spent five hours there and was shocked to see the extent of the damage caused to the buildings and area adjoining the shrine. "The centre of faith has turned into a burial ground. Bodies are scattered in the area. Only the sanctum sanctorum is intact," he said. Thousands of people were still said to be stranded in various parts of the State that was hit by cloudburst and floods in the upper reaches that left several hundreds of homes, rest houses and buildings in ruins and thousands of people missing. In Himachal Pradesh, rescue operations were on to evacuate stranded people in rain-hit Kinnaur district with two dedicated choppers pressed into service even as reports of more people stuck in interior Pooh, Nako and Kaza areas poured in. Two IAF choppers and one State chopper had been deployed for evacuating the stranded but one chopper has developed some problem. "So far over 550 people have been airlifted but the number is steadily increasing with reports of more people struck at different places, pouring in.Helicopter sorties have also been planned for Pooh, Nako, Kaza and other interior places," officials said. Army patrols were on search and rescue missions to evacuate civilians stranded along the Hindustan Tibet National Highway blocked by landslides. While 40 people were evacuated till last evening from Nako, Malling, Khab, Dubling, Pooh and Ropa to Army camps, 140 civilians have been airlifted by armed forces' helicopters from Bhabhanagar, Rekong Peo and Rampur. The BSNL tower at Pooh is being operated under the aegis of the Army to facilitate communication by civilians stranded in the area. In Uttar Pradesh, the rivers Ganga and Sharda continue to flow near the danger mark as the government intensified flood relief operations and released Rs 50 lakh for the 13 affected districts. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who took stock of the situation in 13 affected districts � Saharanpur, Jhansi, Bijnore, Muzaffarnagar, Amroha, Bahraich, Lakhimpur, Meerut, Barabnki, Pilibhit, Sitapur, Balrampur and Gonda � sanctioned Rs. 50 lakh for each district for flood relief operation. The rivers Sharda at Palia Kalan and Ghaghra at Elgin Bridge and Ayodhya were still flowing above the danger mark. The river Sharda was flowing near the red mark at Turtipar and Rapti at Balrampur while the river Ganga was rising all along its route from Fatehgarh to Allahabad. Meanwhile, the main link between U.P. and Haryana remained cut off for the fourth day today due to closure of the bridge over the river Yamuna at Kairana in Shamli district. The bridge was closed for traffic as the river Yamuna had crossed the danger mark four days ago. The Haridwar Senior Superintendent of Police said, "40 bodies have been recovered from different points along the Ganga since last evening and taken to the district hospital where each of them is being given a number and an identification tag." An equal number of bodies are likely to be recovered soon from different areas located along the banks of the Ganga in the holy city, Mr. Swaroop said. Citing difficulties in conducting the autopsy of so many bodies with limited facilities available, the official said additional teams of doctors have been requisitioned for the purpose. Help is being taken from BHEL, Rishikul Ayurvedic College and State Infrastructure and Industrial Development Corporation of Uttaranchal (SIDCUL) to examine the bodies, he said. Over 33,000 evacuated Stepping up relief efforts, the Centre on Friday deployed more aircraft to evacuate thousands stranded in Uttarakhand even as the railways pitched in with free travel to enable those rescued to reach their hometowns. As many as 33,152 persons have been moved to safer areas in massive relief and rescue operations launched by the Central and state governments in the last few days to tackle the unprecedented situation caused by flash floods. "The Air Force has deployed 13 more aircraft taking the number of aircraft for relief and rescue operations to 43," I&B Minister Manish Tewari told reporters in New Delhi. He said the railways was also operating special trains from Dehradun to Delhi, Ambala and Lucknow to ferry stranded pilgrims and tourists. Mr. Tewari said the railways along with the Uttarakhand government has also offered to send all stranded passengers free of cost to their respective destinations. The Indian Air Force has deployed its heavylift Mi-26 helicopters to transport fuel and heavy equipment required by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to clear roads closed due to landslide. The IAF has also activated advanced landing grounds at Dharasu and Gaucher and set up an airbridge to evacuate stranded persons. Besides the Army, personnel of the Sashastra Seema Bal, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, National Disaster Relief Force, BRO have been engaged in search, rescue and relief efforts. Efforts were also on to operationalise 207 mobile towers of 739 such installations in the three affected districts of Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi. More Helipads being built The rescue teams are focusing on evacuating people stuck in the jungles between Kedarnath and Gaurikund and more helipads were being built, said ITBP chief Ajay Chadha on Friday. Addressing a press conference, Mr. Chadha said the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the National Disaster Response Force teams were trying to set up a small helipad in Rambada, near Kedarnath, to enable choppers to land and evacuate people. "We are trying to evacuate people and trying to create a helipad to help people stuck in the jungles in Kedarnath and Gaurikund," Mr. Chadha said at a press conference. The rescue teams were trying to create more roads to evacuate people as roads have been washed away, he added. Asked if the authorities were trying to press in more choppers to evacuate people, Mr. Chadha said the helipads being used were small and it was difficult for more than one or two choppers to land at a time. He said the Army authorities are trying to create a big helipad at Gaurikund to enable the big MI-17 choppers to land. He termed the rescue operations, which have picked up with the weather clearing, as "satisfactory." Mr. Chadha visited Uttarakhand along with senior Home Ministry officials on Wednesday.