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10,000 still waiting for help as rain, cloudburst hit rescue operations

Fresh rain, landslides and cloudburst on Monday sent shudders in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, impeding operations to evacuate over 10,000 stranded people even as the state government barred other states from undertaking unilateral rescue efforts.

According to Prakash Singh Bhandari, in-charge, district information officer of Pauri district, nearly 250 cattle perished due to cloud-burst, although no human casualty has been reported so far. The Pauri-Kotdwar highway was also halted for a few hours, as roads were damaged, but soon got repaired by BRO workers. The vehicles are now plying on the mentioned highway.

Bad weather grounded most of the big military choppers from bringing people to safety. Small helicopters managed to evacuate only 138 from Badrinath, Pandukeshwar and Lambagar in Chamoli district.

Reports from Chamoli and Pauri districts said it was raining in the higher reaches hampering chopper operations. The state capital Dehradun was also drenched with rain.

Fresh landslides in Rudraprayag and on Badrinath highway also choked the route.

Besides rains and landslides, a cloudburst was reported in Mulan village in Paithani kasba in Pauri following incessant rains. Many houses collapsed but casualties, if any, were not immediately known.

With a number of states sending its teams to flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand, the state government on Monday decided not to allow any other state to undertake unilateral rescue efforts.

In Delhi, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the death toll in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand may cross the 1,000 mark after the debris is cleared.

Uttarakhand disaster management minister Yashpal Arya had on Sunday said that at ‘At least 5,000 people must have been killed in the deluge that inflicted heavy damage on vast tracts of land especially in Kedarnath valley’.

‘About 5000 people are yet to be evacuated from Badrinath and not even a single chopper has so far been able to take off from Sahasradhara helipad here to rescue stranded pilgrims at the shrine and affected pockets adjacent to it,’ Retd Wing Commander Capt R S Brar, who has been entrusted with the task of overseeing air rescue operations, said.

With inclement weather affecting chopper operations, the state government's plans to launch a final combing operation in the worst-hit Kedarnath Valley, in search of possible stranded pilgrims in pockets, has also hit a roadblock.

However, official sources said an IAF chopper has been sent from Gauchar to Badrinath axis to assess the weather and find out whether it would be possible to resume rescue operations in the area where the majority of stranded pilgrims are located.

In Delhi, NDMA member V K Duggal said that ‘there were some operational issues’ relating to relief and rescue work that were being sorted out.

Superintendent of police Rudraprayag Biranderjeet Singh said, ‘The roads are already fragile in some parts of the district. So, I have issued an advisory to tourists and other persons searching for their loved ones to leave for Rishikesh as soon as possible.’

He said around 8000 lives were saved as all tourist police chowkis kept on announcing that there would be heavy rainfall and that they should try to avoid the yatra.

‘I think my men did a huge job, that today we have saved around 7000-8000 people, they were kept alive by them, they were taken to safe places or advised to be taken to safe places that did a great work,’ he said.

Kedarnath Valley, the temple town which was the epicentre of the floods and landslides, was on Sunday cleared of all stranded pilgrims in stepped up rescue operations.
Sandeep Bankhwal

Sandeep Bankhwal

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