Uttarakhand toll touches 822; officials worried about DISEASE outbreak
statesman news service
DEHRADUN, 25 JUNE: An IAF chopper carrying 20 personnel and crew on a rescue mission in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand crashed today and all on board are feared killed, as fresh rains hampered efforts to evacuate thousands still stranded.
Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) M Sashidhar Reddy told PTI eight bodies have been recovered and chances of any survivor onboard were remote; five IAF personnel were among the dead.
Despite heavy rains hampering rescue operations for the second day today, rescuers managed to evacuate 1,000 more stranded people, including from Badrinath. Around 7,000 people including 4,000 in the pilgrim town, of whom 1,500 were locals, are still waiting to be rescued. The death toll rose to 822 with 142 bodies being found, including 127 in Kedarnath, the epicentre of the destruction, officials said.
An IAF spokesperson told PTI in Delhi: “One Mi-17 V5 chopper on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath while returning from Kedarnath crashed north of Gaurikund.”
A senior IAF officer in Gauchar said the ill-fated chopper had made two sorties to the Kedarnath area since this morning and was on its third sortie when it crashed. The crash occurred in “difficult” weather conditions created by rains and fog, he said.
The IAF flew fewer sorties today and evacuated about 500 people including 120 from Badrinath. 127 more bodies were recovered since yesterday from the Kedarnath area. At least 15 corpses were found floating in the Ganga in different districts of Uttar Pradesh.
The IAF, the Army and the Uttarakhand administration have, meanwhile, launched a massive operation to send firewood and fuel for conducting the last rites of those killed in the Kedarnath Valley but bad weather again hampered the operations. Multiple agencies undertaking relief and rescue operations are increasingly getting worried about the imminent spread of diseases and the rotting of bodies in the temple town area as the tragedy is ten days old now.
State DGP Satyabrat Bansal said the DNA of unidentified bodies were being preserved and it is hoped that the weather clears tomorrow to facilitate the cremation of the dead.
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Bengal govt arranges chartered flight
statesman news service
KOLKATA, 25 JUNE: The state has arranged a chartered flight for bringing back stranded pilgrims and tourists from Uttarakhand, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said at Writers’ Buildings today. She said around 1,200 tourists have returned to the state from Uttarakhand.
“Arrangements have been made in both Delhi and Dehradun to bring back the rest of the stranded tourists and pilgrims. I pray the stranded tourists from West Bengal keep well and safely return home,” she said.
Miss Banerjee said that this is the first time that the West Bengal government had taken the initiative to arrange a chartered flight to bring back stranded tourists.
She said she had taken the initiative in 1992 to bring the bodies of six tourists from Himachal Pradesh.
“Till now the government has no casualty report on any tourist from West Bengal. Chief secretary Sanjay Mitra and home secretary Basudeb Banerjee are in touch with the Uttarakhand government,” she said.
Miss Banerjee said transport minister Madan Mitra, who is in Uttarakhand to help stranded visitors, will return and minister Rachpal Singh will stay there for coordination.
The resident commissioner (RC), who is posted in New Delhi, has been asked to monitor the situation. The RC has got information of about 145 pilgrims of the state stranded at the Bharat Sevasram Sangha and Balananda Ashram in Badrinath.