Army begins rescue ops

Army begins rescue ops
Highlights

The Army helicopters pressed into service by the Uttarakhand government to rescue the stranded pilgrims in...

The Army helicopters pressed into service by the Uttarakhand government to rescue the stranded pilgrims in the Chardham region started their operations on Tuesday afternoon. Initially they reached Badarinath and Kedarnath centres since those places were convenient for landing, according to the official teams formed by the Andhra Pradesh government.

One of the team members, who was on his way to Dehradun to directly coordinate the rescue and welfare of the Telugu pilgrims, told The Hans India over telephone that they were yet to know whether the already rescued people included anyone from the state. In any case, since the total number of stranded people from all over the country was in several thousands, it may be sometime before the Telugu people were rescued, he said.

"Since the roads are fully jammed, the journey is painfully slow and we may reach there only on Wednesday morning after about 9 am," said G Ramakotiah. The picture would be clear once the teams arrive at their destinations. The State government has dispatched two teams of two officials each to Haridwar and Dehradun. Ramakotiah is one of them. The authorities also stationed some of them at Andhra Bhavan on round-the-clock duty.

Army at rescue work in Uttarakhand

According to information received till Tuesday evening, the downpour in the Chardham region had stopped and all the pilgrims belonging to the State are safe, Blakoteswara Rao, who is part of the AP Bhavan-based teams, said. They were being supplied with food, water, medicines etc but were still in the marooned Uttarkashi zone. Ramakotaiah said that the River Bhagirathi continued to flow with fury, and more landslides were likely. That way the situation continued to be precarious, one of them who had travelled through the area before said.

At the moment 60 of the pilgrims were located at Uttarkashi and contact was established with them. However, about 10 of that group, for reasons unknown, had split from them and left for a place 15 kilo metres away. They could not be contacted so far but the information was that they were camping in an ashram. Another 20 people at Badarinath had reportedly climbed up the hills for safety, Ramakotaiah informed.

As per Balakoteswara Rao, the AP Bhavan special information centre had received enquiries from nearly 25 families from the State till evening. When asked about the exact number of pilgrims involved since the media mentioned varying figures, he said even they were not aware of it yet. The team deputed for Dehradun expects to meet the District Magistrate (called District Collector in AP) B V R C Purushotham there, who incidentally happens to be a Telugu man, and seek necessary help.

Meanwhile, one senior geological scientist who had worked in the Himalayan region for a long time, said �that the tragedy in that entire area was actually a man-made one. Considering the geological nature of the Himalayas and the rainfall conditions which make it a land-slide prone area, the government should never permit construction of buildings or houses on the slopes and certain other places.

But, despite warnings from scientific bodies and other experts and in disregard of past experiences, the authorities either keep permitting such structures or look the other way, he explained. This creates pressure not only on hills but also the adjoining narrow roads which again are perched on steep slopes and banks of rivers that are at a depth, and water flows rise suddenly creating their own stress on roads and hills in turn, he said.

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