40 bodies found floating in Ganga, toll touches 550
On Friday, 40 bodies were found floating in Ganges river in the Kumbh city of Haridwar. ‘Since Thursday evening, 40 bodies have been recovered from different points along the Ganga. They have been taken to the district hospital where each of them is being given a number and an identification tag,’ senior superintendent of police Haridwar Rajeev Swaroop told reporters.
With rescue operations unraveling newer episodes of human tragedy, the state government has now said the death toll could be unimaginably high. Till Friday, the official toll figures had touched 550 dead.
According to officials, 55 helicopters are being used in what is the military’s largest rescue and relief operation ever. A Mi-26 - the largest helicopter in the world - is being used to fly fuel to smaller choppers, and to airlift equipment needed to clear and repair roads and bridges which were washed away. Officials said that 30 metre long pre-fabricated bridges have been lifted to Badrinath and Kedarnath to restore connectivity lost due to washing away of the roads and bridges.
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, after holding a review meeting in New Delhi, told mediapersons: ‘We have evacuated 34,000 people from various parts of Uttarakhand but 50,000 people are still stranded.’ Former home secretary VK Duggal has been appointed coordinator for the rescue operations.
Uttarakhand agriculture minister, who visited Kedarnath shrine on Friday, said: ‘The centre of faith has turned into a burial ground. Bodies are scattered in the area. Only the sanctum sanctorum is intact.’ Talking from Gauchar, Kedarnath MLA Shaila Rani Rawat said that the scale of destruction is beyond the imagination of any one, and it’s not possible for the state government to control the situation immediately.
Meanwhile, the rescue agencies are facing tough challenge from local residents of various villages of Uttarakhand as they too are fleeing the affected areas along with stranded tourists and pilgrims. ‘It’s difficult to persuade the local residents to stay put as their home and hearth have been washed away,’ said an Indo-Tibetan Border Police official.