M A I N   N E W S

We will evacuate the last survivor, says Army Chief
Orders final combing operation 
1,500 still at Badrinath
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

Joshimath/Gobind Ghat, June 28
All pilgrims stranded at Badrinath will be evacuated using a trekking route or helicopters by tomorrow, or at best by Sunday morning. The airlifted will be brought to Gauchar or Joshimath, while the pilgrims opting to trek will be ferried in vehicles Gobind Ghat onwards.

Around 750 pilgrims trekked the 13-km Badrinath-Gobind Ghat stretch today, while around 1,500 were still stranded at Badrinath. Senior Army officers claimed Badrinath would be totally evacuated if there was no rain for the next 24 to 36 hours.

Army Chief General Bikram Singh today visited the Gauchar base camp, met troops of the Army and ITBP and lauded the job done by them over the last 12 days. He ordered one last “combing operation” on the worst-hit Gaurikund-Kedarnath stretch lest any survivor should be left out. Army and ITBP jawans accompanied small groups of pilgrims on the trekking route.

Addressing the media, the Army Chief said: “We will continue to look for survivors and each of our countryman has to be brought out.” He, however, refused to give any time limit for completing the rescue operations saying “everything depends upon the weather”.

General Bikram Singh was lavish in his praise for the synergy shown by all central forces. “The Army, the IAF, the ITBP and the NDRF did a commendable job in difficult circumstances. The synergy was very good,” he said. He said he had “come to give a pat on the back of all the boys”. The Army Chief also met officials of the IAF and the ITBP. He was schedule to fly to Joshimath, but had to cut short his visit due to bad weather. He, however, spoke to pilgrims through video conferencing. He spoke to a small group of pilgrims evacuated from Badrinath. Nileesh Ladda of Madhya Pradesh thanked the Army Chief saying “we are safe because of the Army”. The General responded “this is your Army, it will take care of you”.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who was on the second visit to Dehradun since the disaster struck the state, said all-out efforts would be made in the multi-agency operations to locate those still trapped under debris and gone missing.

“The Air Force will deploy more MI-17 helicopters to evacuate all. The helicopter fleet will remain stationed in Uttarakhand for 15 more days,” he told reporters.

Commander of the Joshimath-based 9th Brigade Brigadier Akshat Arora said, “We have advocated that the aviation resources be kept here till road links to villages were restored.” These helicopters could be used to make requisite supplies. At Gauchar, the IAF is winding down its operations. (With PTI inputs) 

20 bravehearts honoured

Gauchar: Twenty bravehearts killed in Tuesday’s helicopter crash in Uttarakhand were on Friday given a guard of honour. The 20 men —five from the IAF, nine from the NDRF and six from the ITBP — were accorded the honour in the presence of Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and Army Chief General Bikram Singh at a ceremony in Dehradun.

Locals struggle for food, shelter

Rudrapur: People living in the villages of flood-ravaged Uttarakhand are now left with the daunting task of rebuilding their damaged houses and coping with depleting rations. Some of them have rations left for just 3-4 days now. 





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