M A I N   N E W S

Over 70,000 evacuated, thousands still missing
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 22
Continuing evacuation through both aerial and land routes, over 70,000 persons have been moved to safer places from the flash-flood affected areas of Uttarakhand.

Backed by massive air and land support from the Army, Air Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the government completed evacuation of all 500 persons stranded in and around Gangotri, a majority of them in Kedarnath and Gaurikund, even as ground forces worked overnight to open up new routes to speed up the process.

Minister of Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari said over 70,000 persons had been moved to safety, and around 10,000 remained stranded. Home Ministry Sushilkumar Shinde, however, put the number of stranded at 30,000-32,000 in Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts.

Discounting reports of lack of coordination, Tewari said operations were on course given the circumstances.

“The ITBP has evacuated 4,000 people from the Jungle Chetti area. While 8,000 are still stuck in the Badrinath area, there are 80-odd people left in Kedarnath. Some 150 sadhus have preferred to stay back in Gaurikund. A medical camp has been set up in Guptkashi. Some 100 people are safe in Hemkunt Sahib with adequate stock of food and water,” he said.

Sixtyone helicopters — including 43 of the IAF, 11 of the Army and seven private machines — have undertaken over 300 sorties. The biggest breakthrough was setting up an airbase with an aviation fuel supply bridge at Dharasu, Tewari said. This became possible after the C130J Hercules aircraft landed on a 1,300-metre strip in inclement weather with 8,000 litres high octane fuel. This has resulted in swifter turnaround time for helicopters engaged in evacuation operations.

With the entire operation being monitored on a regular basis by the National Crisis Management Committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth every evening, authorities were working ceaselessly, applying innovative measures, to provide succour to those trapped in the hills following nature's fury earlier this week, officials said.

Tewari said the Railways was ferrying passengers free of charge from Haridwar while the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has opened the road connecting Rishikesh with Joshimath and Uttarkashi for light vehicles, while its teams were combing through villages and reported that inhabitants were safe.

Rescue teams reached out to 41 foreigners and 21 Indians stuck in Himachal’s Spiti Valley today and moved seven unwell Israelis to safety, while the rest were lodged in hotels in the region.

A dedicated Army team prepared a helipad at Jungle Chatti to facilitate one of the most dangerous and inaccessible areas of the Kedar valley to facilitate landing of Dhruv copters. Another team created history in the Badrinath valley by creating a helibridge at Gobind Ghat to move pilgrims across the Alkananda river, besides operationalising a food track between Gobind Ghat and Lambagar. 





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