Thursday, June 27, 2013

Uttarakhand: Cremation of bodies begins, 3,500 yet to be evacuated

Gauchar/Guptkashi: 27 Jun 2013

With the weather clearing a bit and a threat of epidemic looming large, mass cremation of bodies of people killed in the rain fury in Uttarakhand finally began in Kedarnath on Wednesday, while 3,500 people are still waiting to be rescued 11 days after the disaster.

As 1,000 more stranded people were evacuated from Badrinath and Harshil sectors through air and road routes despite rain and fog. Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne on a morale boosting mission to Uttarakhand after the IAF chopper crash pledged to continue with rescue efforts and hoped to wrap it up in the next few days.


\"The cremation of bodies in Kedarnath which was being put off again and again for the past two days due to bad weather was finally taken up this afternoon,\" IAS officer Ravinath Raman said from Guptkashi. The temple town of Kedarnath was the epicentre of destruction. However, the number of bodies cremated was not immediately known.

Toll in Uttarakhand calamity rises to 822

Around 3,500 people are still waiting to be evacuated from Harsil and Badrinath areas, an Army release said. Around one lakh stranded people have been rescued so far since the disaster struck the hill state on June 15.

Air rescue continues despite low visibility

Browne said if the IAF, which is part of the multi-agency operations that also included the Army, ITBP and NDMA, got three to four days of good weather. It will be able to complete its mission, added the IAF Chief.

\"If the weather starts improving by Friday or so, then by Monday, Tuesday we should have all this (task) finished,\" he said. \"We are over the hill\", he told reporters in Gauchar, the forward base for the rescue choppers.

\"The operations are going to continue. In fact, most of the work has already been done. It is now a question of getting the people out from Badrinath and the Harsil sector,\" he said, adding, \"Our rotors will not stop churning. That means, we will continue with the job till get the people out.\"

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said people stranded in Harsil and Badrinath areas would be rescued in the next two days if the weather remains conducive to flights and all steps were being taken to prevent epidemic outbreak in the flood-affected regions.

2000 evacuated from Badrinath

A bridge constructed by Border Roads Organization at Pandukeshwar in rain-hit Uttarakhand on Wednesday helped the Army evacuate 2000 stranded people from Badrinath where 2750 people are still awaiting to be rescued.

Another 540 people are awaiting evacuation from Harsil where 600 people were pulled out by Army using various means.

Bad weather hampered the rescue efforts through air, but evacuation of those stranded continued by roads, a statement issued by the Group of Ministers on Media said.

Ration and edible oil supplies have reached Badrinath for those stranded as well as the local residents. No fresh survivors were found in the Jungle Chatti area where the Army carried out reconnaissance missions.

Death toll may rise

Vice Chairman of NDMA M Sashidhar Reddy said there is high possibility of the death toll climbing up. \"There is 10 feet high debris in Kedarnath and we fear that several bodies are trapped,\" he said.

Reddy also said that nearly 350 people continue to remain untraceable, raising fears that all of them are dead. According to official figures, so far 822 people lost their lives following the natural disaster in Uttarakhand.

DGP Satyavrat Bansal said disposal of all the bodies at Kedarnath was an onerous task with a large number of bodies lying underneath tonnes of debris and extricating them would not be easy as heavy equipment like JCBs will be need to be transported to the high altitude shrine for the purpose.

State minister Harak Singh Rawat also said clearing the shrine area of the debris and the bodies would not be easy. Till now, Matli, Bhatwari, Maneri have been fully evacuated. In Badrinath, one MI-17 and three Civil Helicopters are in operation for evacuations. More choppers are being kept on standby but due to inclement weather conditions, rescue operations are being hampered.

U'khand govt to restore Kedarnath shrine

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Wednesday announced that the state government will reconstruct Kedarnath shrine, with which people of the country have an emotional association.

Bahuguna said the state government will reconstruct the shrine and restore its lost glory.

When told by reporters that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had also offered to reconstruct the temple, he said anyone was welcome to join in the noble mission.
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