The Uttarakhand government on Friday claimed that the army and rescue workers have managed to reopen dozens of roads by building makeshift bridges, which has considerably sped up evacuation of the trapped people.
The Kedarnath Temple is pictured amid flood destruction in the holy Hindu town of Kedarnath, located in Rudraprayag district in Uttarakhand. AFP
State spokesman Amit Chandola said over 2,000 vehicles carrying stranded Hindu pilgrims had moved out of the area since late Thursday even as thousands of soldiers continued efforts to reach the worst-hit towns and villages as the sun continued to shine on the third day of the tragedy. Chandola said the rescue operation centred on evacuating nearly 27,000 people trapped in the worst-hit Kedarnath temple area -- one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, located atop the Garhwal Himalayan range.
It escaped major damage, but debris covered the area around it and television images showed the bodies of pilgrims strewn around the area.
Twenty-two air force helicopters have been ferrying rescue workers and doctors along with equipment, food and medicine to Kedarnath, the nearest town to those trapped in the valley, said air commodore Rajesh Prasad, who is overseeing the operations.
People allege slow rescue, stage demo
On Friday, hundreds of people looking for relatives demonstrated in Dehradun, the state capital, where flood survivors were taken by helicopters. They complained that the government was taking too long to evacuate the survivors, with small helicopters bringing in four to five people in one trip.
The flooding washed away roads and nearly two dozen bridges, demolished 365 houses and partially damaged 275 others in Uttrakhand, the state government said. Most of those stranded are Hindu pilgrims who were visiting four revered shrines.
The annual monsoon rains sustain India's agriculture but also cause flooding that routinely claims lives and damages property.