Dehradun: Forty bodies of flood victims were recovered from Haridwar on Friday, taking the toll in the rain fury to 190 as operations to rescue over 9000 stranded in Kedarnath and Badrinath were stepped up with the deployment of 40 helicopters.
As the magnitude of the tragedy continued to unfold, Uttarakhand Principal Secretary Rakesh Sharma said casualty figures can be ‘shockingly high.’
Thousands of people are still said to be stranded in various parts of the state that was hit by cloudburst and floods in the upper reaches that left several hundreds of homes, rest houses and buildings in ruins and thousands of people missing.

READ MORE:Rescue operations pick up pace in Uttarakhand

Terming it as the ‘worst tragedy of the millennium’, Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat said, "It will take us at least five years to recover from the extensive damages caused to the entire infrastructure network in the Kedarnath area which is the worst affected.”

READ MORE: Kin of missing people protesting in U’Khand
Rawat, who had visited the Kedarnath area, said that he spent five hours there and was shocked to see the extent of the damage caused to the buildings and area adjoining the shrine.
Survivours recount harrowing tales

Those who survived the cloudburst and flood that ravaged Uttarakhand are limping back home with harrowing tales of spending four days without food and water, being forced to pay Rs 200 for a Rs 5 biscuit packet

The hundreds and thousands returning to safety from the rain ravaged Kedar Valley and other parts of devastated Uttarakhand have stories to narrate of human insensitivity, as some locals are fleecing the trapped pilgrims and tourists in the wake of shortages of food supply, shelter, medicines and drinking water.

And there is nothing we can do, said Nutan Shukla, a resident of Uttar Pradesh's Bareilly who claims to have paid Rs 5,000 for one-time meal for herself and her group of five.

Jaipal, a resident of Kaithal in Haryana said that he was caught in a landslide on way back from Gangotri and had to spend four days without food and water. "We were locked in the bus...I guess the deaths are much higher than what is being claimed," he said minutes after landing at the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun.

Former Bihar minister Ashvani Kumar Chaubey, who was trapped in Kedarnath with his entourage of family members and security men, told reporters on returning to Dehradun that he has never seen anything like this.

He said he slept on a ‘layer of dead bodies’ and saw many protect their dead and refuse to leave the area without taking them. Some, he added, however, cremated their loved ones and proceeded to safety.

Rescue operations solely by choppers

Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna observed the fact that over 500 roads have been damaged and 200 bridges washed away makes the problem of rescue even bigger.

"Now rescue is solely by choppers, both of the air force and the 20 private choppers that we have hired. But they too have their limits," pointed out the Chief Minister who said with the relief camps and 'rain basera' full, the biggest challenge now is to take people from here to plains where there is normalcy.

Considering the poor connectivity, the Centre has decided to deploy as many helicopters as possible in the axis of Badrinath, Kedarnath and Gangotri regions.

To ensure smooth helicopter operations, the Union home ministry has asked ministry of petroleum to make aviation turbine fuel (ATF) tanks available as close as possible to operational helipads.

More rain may jeopardize rescue operations

A senior official said that they are now worried about the prospects of more rain coming to Uttarakhand in the next few days. The Met department has forecast inclement weather and more rains in the region from June 23.

This, officials fear, would not only jeopardize the rescue operations but would also snap the last ray of hope for thousands still stranded. Officials say more than 51,000 people are still stranded at various places while over 24,000 have been rescued to safety.

More help to flood-hit states
The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday announced Rs 1 crore aid to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund for the people of flood hit states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
The government also expresses its sympathy and solidarity with the people of the affected states, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said after a cabinet meeting here chaired by him.
"The J&K cabinet meeting which I chaired today unanimously passed a resolution of sympathy and solidarity with the people of Uttarakhand and HP," Omar wrote on microblogging site Twitter.
"The cabinet has also announced an aid of Rs one crore to the PM's Relief Fund for the affected people of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Jharkhand Governor Syed Ahmad announced assistance of Rs 5 crore to flood-hit Uttarakhand where over 250 people from Jharkhand were reported missing after torrential rains and cloudburst over the weekend left widespread death and destruction.


Latest News from India News Desk