Fresh landslides on Monday noon after two in the morning have completely blocked the Badrinath highway bringing to halt the relief operations through the makeshift escort tracks which are getting soggier and slippery under rain.
The rain had caused two landslides between Rudraprayag and Guptakashi earlier in the morning slowing down the relief work.
At least 5,000 people are still stranded in Badrinath, who cannot be rescued unless choppers move into action. However, bad weather conditions have kept the helicopters grounded for over 24 hours now, which has become the cause of concern for the rescuers in the face of weak chances of choppers resuming required sorties under bad weather conditions.
“Not a single chopper has so far been able to take off from Sahasradhara helipad here to rescue stranded pilgrims at the shrine and affected pockets adjacent to it," says retd wing commander capt R S Brar, who is overseeing air rescue operations.
The situation in Chamoli and Pauri districts is equally bad as it has been raining in the higher reaches since morning hampering chopper operations.
Sources say the next 12 hours are important as the army and paramilitary forces have yet to rescue 9,000 stuck in the flood-ravaged terrain of Uttarakhand.
However, MET dept deirector Anand Sharma says, “There can be some opportunity for helicopter sorties as there will be moderate showers in Uttarakhand.” But, everything depends on the visibility in the hilly terrain, say sources.
At least 12,000 people were rescued from Uttarakhand on Sunday raising the number of the rescued to over 80,000.
However, there is no clarity on the number of persons missing as every minute is bringing up new facts and figures, sources add.
Late on Sunday evening, state's disaster management and mitigation minister Yashpal Arya Uttarakhand denied reports that quoted him as saying that he feared the toll was nearly 5,000. “The enormity of disaster is so big that the toll could be more than the present figure. However, the picture is likely to be more clear in the coming days” he told HT.
The meteorological department has predicted moderate to heavy rain in the hills as well as foothills of the Himalayan state in the next 48 hours. Even moderate rain can hamper rescue as it may trigger more landslides.
"Rain on Tuesday are our main worry...if we get three to four hours of window tomorrow, we can do well," Air Marshal SB Deo, director general (air operations), told reporters in the Capital on Sunday. "Moderate to rather heavy rain and thundershowers are likely at many places with heavy rainfall at isolated places, especially in the foothills of Uttarakhand," said Anand Sharma, director, meteorological department.
Though skies turned grey, IAF choppers continued sorties to Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport to bring in those evacuated. But the weather took the turn for worse in the afternoon and air operations had to be suspended but for a few hours only.
The Kedarnath valley has been completely evacuated, while more than 3,000 stranded people were moved to safer locations from Badrinath, Junglechatti and Harshil areas by the security forces, chief secretary Subhash Kumar told media.