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HindustanTimes Sat,29 Nov 2014

Mass cremations begin amid epidemic scare even as 3,500 people await evacuation

HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times  Dehradun, June 26, 2013
First Published: 21:20 IST(26/6/2013) | Last Updated: 11:14 IST(27/6/2013)

Rescue operations resumed in Harsil and Badrinath on Wednesday even as bad weather slowed the pace of work. The state government agencies rescued about 350 people while the Army and Air Force around 1,800. Around 5,000 are still stranded in various parts of the flood-affected areas.

Around 22 helicopters made sorties to rescue people and deliver relief materials in disaster-hit areas.

“The Kedar valley has been fully evacuated. There is no need to make any further sorties to look for the stranded people there. We have completed our search operation,” said air commodore Rajesh Issar, who is also an IAF task force commander.

More than 5,600 army troops have been deployed in Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Pithoragarh districts of Uttarakhand over the past 10 days.

Amid fears of the spread of epidemic due to bodies getting decomposed, the mass cremation of the dead began on Wednesday at the Kedar valley in Rudraprayag district in accordance with religious tenets.

However, Rudraprayag district magistrate Dileep Jawalkar could not specify the number of bodies cremated due to lack of contact with the officials who had gone for this purpose.

The government has said it is preserving the DNA, which would be matched with that of their relatives later to establish their identities.

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Most of the bodies were not identifiable because portions were eaten by animals and insects or torn off by the gushing waters. Mass cremation was to start on Tuesday but the modalities could not be completed due to inclement weather. The government will hold a mahayagna in Haridwar and family members of the dead and the general public will attend it.

Meanwhile, the bodies of all the 20 personnel and crew on board the IAF rescue chopper that crashed were recovered on Wednesday in a hilly area in Uttarakhand even as IAF chief NAK Browne told his men to move on.

The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder of the Mi-17V5 helicopter were also retrieved near Gaurikund. These vital instruments are expected to give clues as to what caused the mishap.

(With inputs from PTI)

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