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2 more missing trekkers found dead, death toll reaches 7; search on for remaining two

Dehradun: Two more members of an 11-strong trekking team that had gone missing have been found dead taking the death toll to seven, while a search was underway for the remaining two, officials said here on Friday.

Two members of the team had been rescued alive on Thursday. They are injured and being treated in Harsil and Uttarkashi, an official said.

They had gone missing on a trek to Chitkul in Himachal Pradesh via Harsil in Uttarkashi.

Search and rescue teams from Uttarkashi spotted five bodies of trekkers on Thursday, while two members of the team were found dead by a rescue team in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarkashi district disaster management officer Devendra Patwal said.

A search is on for the two missing members of the team on a war footing with the help of a helicopter, Colonel Rajendra Prasad of 9 Bihar Regiment said.

The team consisting of eight trekkers -- one from Delhi and the rest from West Bengal -- and three cooks went missing on a trek to Chitkul recently.

They had begun the trek from Harsil in Uttarkashi district on October 11 and were to reach Chitkul via Lamkhaga pass.

Members of the trekking team included Anita Rawat (38) from Delhi, Mithun Dari (31) from West Bengal, Tanmay Tiwari (30), Vikash Makal (33), Saurav Ghosh (34), Saviayan Das (28), Richard Mandal (30) and Suken Manjhi (43), all from Kolkata.

The cooking staff have been identified as Devendra (37), Gyan Chandra (33) and Upendra (32) all from Purola in Uttarkashi.

Meanwhile, the death count in Uttarakhand rose to 75 on Friday as rescue workers found more bodies and also brought to safety score of stranded people after the rains that recently lashed the state.

State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) men rescued 65 trekkers, including six foreigners, stranded near Bageshwar's Pindari and Kafni glaciers. Twenty-three people were rescued from Darma Valley of Pithoragarh.

The official death toll in the state now is 68, including the five bodies of members of a team of 11 people who were trekking from Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi to Chitkul in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. The figure, however, does not include two others member of the Chitkul trek reported dead.

Five people feared dead in Bageshwar are also not included in the official count.

Rains battered Uttarakhand for nearly three days, beginning Sunday night, with the Kumaon division bearing the brunt of it.

An official said Kumaon suffered a loss of Rs 2,000 crore, out of Rs 7,000 croe damage statewide estimated by the Uttarakhand government.

"SDRF teams have rescued 42 tourists, including six foreigners, from Dwali near the Pindari glacier and 23 from the Kafni glacier," Bageshwar DM Vineet Kumar said.

Meanwhile, two Cheetah helicopters, which were to make sorties in search of 10 members of a trekking team stranded in Sundardhunga, could not take off due to cloudy weather, he said.

"But four members of the team have returned safe. We suspect that there may have been some casualties too. The helicopters will make another attempt early on Saturday morning in search of the missing members of the trekking team," Kumar said.

Besides, 15 people who had gone missing in Sarmool, the point of origin of the Saryu river, have also been found safe, he said.

Twenty-one tourists and two ailing locals were rescued from Darma Valley of Pithoragarh district, DM Ashish Chauhan said.

Two surviving members of a trekking team have already been rescued while the search for two missing is on, officials in Uttarkashi said.

Kumaon Divisional Commissioner Sushil Kumar said, "Kumaon division bore the brunt of the unseasonal spell of record rains which damaged crops and property worth Rs 2,000 crore besides accounting for the highest number of deaths and large scale destruction of houses," the official said.

Fifty-nine deaths were reported from Kumaon alone with Nainital reporting the maximum 35 deaths followed by 11 in Champawat, six in Almora, one in Bageshwar and three each in Pithoragarh and Udham Singh Nagar districts.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Friday visited Dungri village in Chamoli district to meet the disaster-hit people.

Accompanied by Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj, state Disaster Management Minister Dhan Singh Rawat and officials, Dhami trekked up the steep slippery slopes of the village with a stick in hand for an on-the-spot assessment of the losses.

Two persons of a family were buried in the rubble of a landslide in the village on October 19. Dhami met the surviving members of the family and promised them all help.

He asked officials to speed up relief and rescue efforts in the affected areas assuring them that they will not have to face any shortage of resources.

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