Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Saturday said that close to 30,000 people have been rescued so far from different parts of Uttarakhand, while over 40,000 people are still stranded. Shinde, who took stock of the rescue and relief operations in the flash flood hit areas of the hill state, said the evacuations will be completed in one or two days if the rescue operations continue in the same manner.
“Despite bad weather, the Army, NDRF and ITBP are landing and conducting rescue operations. Operations are underway on a war footing,” he said, while emphasizing that the men in uniform are trying their best to evacuate those stranded. The Home Minister said the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been ordered to build access roads so that the stranded people can be reached. Shinde said the identification of dead bodies has begun.He, however, said that some of the bodies recovered were not identifiable.
” DNA tests of decomposed bodies will also be undertaken,” said Shinde. Shinde further informed that the government has appointed former Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal as a nodal officer to oversee the relief and rescue operations. He informed that 550 deaths had occurred till yesterday. “Also, 1,751 houses, 147 bridges and 1,307 roads have got damaged,” he added. The Home Minister also played safe on the BJP’s demand that Uttarakhand floods should be declared as a national calamity.
“What will we get by announcing this as a national disaster? Will we gain anything more? Don’t do politics on this,” he said. Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said that the floods in the hill state were a massive disaster, and added that his government was leaving no stone unturned in rescuing those stranded.
“We will be giving Rs 2000 each from tomorrow to all people who are still stranded,” he said. Over 73,000 people have so far been evacuated from the flood and landslide-hit areas of Uttarakhand as rescuers intensified their efforts to help those stranded in different inaccessible parts of the hill state. The army, which has been at the forefront of rescue operation in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, has rescued nearly 16,000 persons. The army has also rescued over 1,000 people in the mountains between Gaurikund and Rambara in Kedarnath.
The army is reaching out to the civil population by providing food packets, establishing medical camps and deploying its technically endowed manpower, to ensure that the vulnerable bunds are strengthened and breaches are effectively plugged. In Joshimath sector, the army has constructed a temporary bridge across Alaknanda River near Govindghat to facilitate Hemkunt Sahib pilgrims to cross over. A road link has been opened from Sonprayag to Gaurikund. The ITBP personnel have so far rescued over 13,000 people. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has deployed 13 more aircraft for relief and rescue operations. 55 helicopters are being used in what is the military’s largest rescue and relief operation ever.
The IAF has also deployed its heavy lift MI-26 helicopters for transporting fuel and heavy equipment required by the Boarder Road Organization (BRO) to clear roads closed due to landslide. With the Meteorological Department warning of more rain and storms from Monday, the various agencies on the ground including the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are operating with urgency.
Special trains are being run, and additional bogies have been added to existing trains to help the pilgrims reach their destinations. Meanwhile, the death toll in the tragedy has gone up to 556. In Haridwar, 40 bodies of those killed in the flash floods and incessant rains were found. The government has warned that the death toll could rise dramatically as flood waters recede and rescue workers reach isolated areas.
The distressed family members waiting for their relatives at the Dehradun Airport are angry at the administration. They said that they are being offered little information and assistance. The Uttarakhand Government has set up control rooms in all districts. These include: State Emergency and Operation Centre – 0135-2710334, 9897890981, 9152443853; Rudraprayag – 01364-233727, 9412914875 and 8859504022; Nainital – 05942-231179, 9456714092 and Dehradun – 0135-2726066, 9412964935.