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Terming the calamity that struck Uttarakhand as unprecedented, Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna on Thursday said the casualties caused by the floods must run into several hundreds.
"The tragedy is huge and damages tremendous with vast tracts of land still submerged under tonnes of debris. The casualties must run into several hundreds," Bahuguna told reporters at the secretariat in Dehradun.
He said the Kedarnath area has been the worst hit, with only the sanctum sanctorum and a couple of adjoining sections of the Himalayan shrine intact. Most structures in its vicinity have been washed away.
However, rescue efforts are going on in full swing, and most of the stranded pilgrims at Kedarnath dham are expected to be evacuated by tomorrow, after which evacuation of pilgrims from Badrinath will be taken up.
Earlier, Principal Secretary Rakesh Sharma said 11,000 people stranded in Gangotri and Yamunotri routes in Uttarkashi district were evacuated through air and road routes to their respective destinations.
"Our focus right now is to vacate Kedarnath valley completely where 250 people are still stranded. Once we are through with this process we will move on to Badrinath where 9000 people are stuck," Sharma said.
When asked exactly how many people had been killed in the calamity, he said it was difficult to arrive at a number but the figures can be "shockingly huge".
Sharma said massive damages have been caused to Kedarnath and it will take no less than a year to restore the shrine to its previous glory.