Death toll in Uttarakhand touches 1,000, killer rain may return in 48 hours
With more than 22,000 people still stranded in the flood-devastated upper reaches of Uttarakhand, where 1,000 people have been killed according to state chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, the likelihood of moderate rains on Sunday and worse the day after came as bad news. Ground zero | Rain forecast puts dark cloud over Uttarakhand | Race against time to evacuate survivorsindia Updated: Jun 23, 2013 01:13 IST
With more than 22,000 people still stranded in the flood-devastated upper reaches of Uttarakhand, where 1,000 people have been killed according to state chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, the likelihood of moderate rains on Sunday and worse the day after came as bad news.
"There is a possibility of light to moderate rain from June 23. Further increase in rainfall is likely to occur from June 25 onwards up till June 27," Anand Sharma, head of the meteorological centre, Dehradun, said on Saturday.
Authorities fear a second spell of rain - after the first on June 15 triggered flash floods and landslides - may hit rescue operations in the tough Himalayan terrain and turn the disaster into a catastrophe.
As state chief minister told TV news channels on Saturday that as many as "1,000 people may have been killed" in the disaster, more rains would add to the woes of stranded people, taking down night temperatures even as they battle hunger.
The Army and paramilitary force teams raced against time to rescue stranded people and provide them succour as officials Saturday put the death toll at 557 and said 20,000 people were still stuck.
Army chief General Bikram Singh said the army was rushing its personnel with logistics, medical cover and rations to extricate people stuck in flood-hit areas in the mountainous state keeping in mind bad weather predictions for Monday.
"Time is limited. We have a window till Sunday because I have been told the weather might turn bad again. We are rushing our people there," Army chief General Bikram Singh said on the sidelines of an event in Hyderabad.
He said the army had increased its deployment of rescuers from 500 personnel the first day to more than 6,000 by Saturday.
Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari, giving an update of the situation in the hill state, said on Saturday about 10,000 people were evacuated by the army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police, including from critical areas.
The army and paramilitary personnel stepped up the already-frenzied pace of their operations on the fifth day of rescue work. According to the state government's bulletin, 7,000 stranded people were rescued till Saturday evening.
Despite bad weather, the Indian Air Force carried out 150 helicopter sorties till Saturday afternoon, said Tewari, adding that in all, 61 helicopters - 43 of IAF, 11 of the army and seven private - are engaged in the rescue and relief mission.
He also said there was "absolute and complete coordination" between various agencies active in relief operations.
Tiwari put the death toll at 557, with 412 injured.
ITBP spokesman Deepak K Pandey said over 9,500 people were still trapped in Kedarnath and the Badrinath region.
He said around 8,000 were estimated to be stranded in Badrinath region.
He said a new ropeway has been installed at Lambagar, about 10 km from Badrinath, to rescue people.
Pandey said stranded people were being brought to Govindghat and then taken to Joshimath on bus and other vehicles. In Joshimath, names of rescued people are being noted before sending them for onward journey to Dehradun, Haridwar and Rishikesh.
Rescued pilgrims from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh began to return home. Of 399 pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, 275 were flown to Delhi, an official statement said Saturday.
They will be flown back to Chennai. A team of Tamil Nadu government officials are in Haridwar to coordinate with the Uttarakhand government to find out the whereabouts of the other 124 pilgrims
About 100 pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh reached Vijayawada from New Delhi by Kerala Express while another group of 30 reached Kazipet in Warangal district by New Delhi-Hyderabad AP Express.
Map which traces the death toll in Uttarakhand from day 1 of the floods. Press play button
For the pilgrims it was a tearful reunion with their loved ones. The relatives of the pilgrims cried and embraced them as Kerala Express halted at Vijayawada station.
Amid the race against time, an eight-member team of experts was sent to Kedarnath temple to count the bodies lying in the area.
Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who visited Dehradun and met Bahuguna, admitted to a "lack of coordination between government agencies engaged in rescue operations". Shinde, who arrived here to review the rescue operations, said the disaster was not man-made.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi also visited the state and lauded the army and other rescue teams after an aerial survey of the flood-ravaged areas.
(With IANS, PTI inputs)