Heavy rains hamper rescue effort
Rescue and evacuation operations in calamity-hit Uttarakhand were hampered by heavy rains in Dehradun and...
Rescue and evacuation operations in calamity-hit Uttarakhand were hampered by heavy rains in Dehradun and other parts of the State on Monday even as help for the survivors continued to pour in. The army, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were scrambling to evacuate those who were stranded. The government said 557 bodies had been found and some 20,000 people were still awaiting evacuation. Some officials and rescuers have said the fatalities may run into hundreds, if not thousands.
State officials said rains were lashing Rudraprayag and once again communication to Tilwada and Gaurikund has been cut off. More than 500 people are stuck at Gaurikund, but efforts to bring them back to safety had to be aborted following heavy rains in the region, an army official told IANS. Rains are also lashing Guptkashi, Harsil and Badrinath - places where hundreds and thousands are still stranded. Eight IAF helicopters were pulled back from rescue operations following heavy rains and inclement weather in Devprayag, which made flying dangerous and at places impossible.
Water levels have once again risen in the Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers in the Rudraprayag region owing to the heavy rains. Other parts in the State, including Pithoragarh, Nainital, Champawat, Udhamsinghnagar and Haldwani, also received widespread rains on Monday. Uttarakhand's Minister for Disaster Management Yashpal Arya said for now, the focus of the state government and other agencies was on rescuing people stranded in various parts of the Char Dham Yatra route. A cloudburst has also been reported from Thalisain in Paudhi though initial reports said no casualties have taken place.
Army officers who are involved in the rescue operations conceded that rains and inclement weather have slackened the pace of the evacuation and the choppers would only be flying in full force once the weather clears up. Aerial surveys done by them and eyewitness accounts of people who have come back to safety suggest that more than 15,000 people are still stranded.
TDP charters plane for AP pilgrims
Venkat ParsaNew Delhi: TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu on Monday night chartered an aircraft to transport pilgrims returning home from the floods-ravaged Uttarakhand. As the pilgrims reached Andhra Pradesh Bhavan in the capital from Uttarakhand, they were in for a pleasant surprise, when they were told that they can return to Hyderabad or Visa- khapatnam by the special aircraft arranged by the TDP. The plane to Visakhapatnam via Hyderabad carried 160 passengers. Nearly 35 of the passengers are bound for Visakhapatnam, while the rest disembark at Hyderabad.
Touched by the gesture, several pilgrims expressed their gratitude to him, as Naidu freely interacted with the pilgrims. Most of the pilgrims said that thanks to Naidu, they were returning home early. The Chief Minister and the State government never bothered to help them or to come to their rescue, they criticised. The pilgrims, especially the womenfolk, wondered where the Chief Minister was and how come it was Naidu, and not the Chief Minister, who was coming to their rescue.
Earlier in the day, Naidu was away in Uttarakhand, where he called on Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna. He reviewed with him arrangements for the safe return of the pilgrims belonging to Andhra Pradesh. Naidu told Vijay Bahuguna that his party MPs would coordinate with his office till the last pilgrim is rescued and evacuated. By the evening, he returned to the capital to see off the pilgrims returning home by the special plane arranged by the TDP.
Naidu slammed Kiran Kumar Reddy for total failure to properly organise relief for the pilgrims hailing from Andhra Pradesh. It was the primary duty of the CM to immediately respond to the plight of the pilgrims and organised immediate transportation facilities, so that they could safely return home after the ordeal they passed through. Even Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa made a similar gesture by chartering a plane to transport the pilgrims belonging to Tamil Nadu.
Former APCC President V Hanumantha Rao visited Andhra Pradesh Bhavan and distributed sarees to women; he also distributed money to them. Rao also made a personal donation for the relief works. AICC spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury got in touch with AP?Resident Commissioner Shashank Goel. She offered help for smooth coordination in organizing relief.
The plane arrived in Hyderabad late on Monday night.