In flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, apart from rescuing thousands who were stranded and drowning, the Indian Army is also helping to keep afloat the sinking morale of the survivors.
In areas where vehicles cannot venture and sorties are limited, the men in uniform are walking with the stranded, carried their belongings if they have any and escorting them till they reach a safe zone.
“Problems like these arise where roads are cut off because of landslides and people want to be airlifted instead of walking all the way up to the destination. Since the roads are unfriendly for vehicles, and we have limited helicopters that are weather-sensitive, we have no option but to accompany them while walking,” said an Army official of the central command.
Even Lt Gen Anil Chait, general officer commanding in chief (GOC-in-C), central command, admitted that the biggest challenge before the army was to generate hope among people that they would get home.
Take, for example, the 42-km stretch between Badrinath and Joshimath along the Alaknanda river. It is one of the worst-affected areas, with more than 5,000 pilgrims still stranded and the only means of evacuation is walking a 12-km stretch.
The army has set up relief camps at various places on this road to provide food and medical assistance to the men on duty and the people being rescued.
“We can only use helicopters for the sick and elderly. Or while crossing the river. As for the younger lot we encourage them to walk, at times using ropes and cables,” the officer said.
As many as 764 people were moved through the land route on Tuesday, while 300 and 281 were evacuated on Monday and Sunday, respectively. The army had to set up two heli-bridges (using helicopters to cross the river) on the river Alaknanda on the Joshimath-Badrinath road.
I told them to keep moving
Dehradun/new delhi: Unfazed by the tragic helicopter crash which killed 20 people, the IAF continued its rescue operation in the affected areas. IAF Chief NAK Browne said, “Oh! I just told them I want to see them smiling. I told them they need to keep moving forward,” Browne told reporters on Wednesday morning.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh extended his condolences to the families of the air force personnel killed in the chopper crash.
“Your men have done heroic work in treacherous circumstances and saved thousands of lives”, Singh said to the IAF chief. AGENCIES