Last ditch efforts were on to evacuate about 900 people from Badrinath on Monday amid overcast conditions at some places in Uttarakhand where authorities were grappling with the task of extricating bodies from under tonnes of debris lying in Kedarghati and their cremation.
Despite bad weather at places including Dehradun, chopper operations began in the morning in Chamoli district to evacuate about 300 pilgrims and 600 locals from Badrinath shrine to Joshimath from where they will be brought further down by road.
According to latest official figures, about 3,000 persons have been reported missing after the tragedy.
The chief secretaries of the states concerned have been asked to verify the list and if the missing people are not traced in a month they will be declared dead.
On the 16th day of the calamity on Monday, only 36 bodies have been disposed of amid necessary rituals so far in the worst-hit Kedarnath shrine area, with no cremation having taken place there over the past two days, officials said.
The state government has sent a 200-member team of medical experts, trained police personnel and support staff from the municipal corporation to the Valley to perform the onerous task of extricating the bodies and their ritual cremation.
The evacuation of all the stranded pilgrims and tourists is likely to be over by Monday evening.
Small helicopters from the Air force and private sector have been pressed into service to drop food packets to the villages totally cut off. About 200 such villages have been identified.
Over one lakh seven thousand and 600 stranded people have been evacuated from the affected areas so far.
Meanwhile, mass funeral of bodies was carried out in Kedarghati region on Sunday. 94 bodies have been cremated. DNA samples of the bodies, which could not be identified, have been preserved.
Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna has said a 200-member team consisting of officials of various departments, including police, health, animal husbandry experts and sanitation, is being sent along with equipment provided by the NDRF to both Kedarnath and Rambada to extricate the bodies from the debris and expedite the process of their disposal.
Union home minister SushilKumar Shinde on Saturday said that over 900 people have lost their lives as per the reports received by him, and added that over one lakh five thousand people have so far been evacuated.
Shinde further said that the combing operations would be carried out in the next three to four days to make sure that none are still stranded.
(With inputsv from PTI, ANI)