Dehradun: Weather conditions once again interrupted the crucial rescue operations in flood-hit Uttarakhand as intermittent rains in Kedarnath and Guptkashi hampered the process of clearing of debris and pulling out of bodies lying underneath.
Adding to the problem, water level in Bhagirathi River is rising continuously, because of which as many as 70 families residing along the river banks had to be taken to safer places.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who is scheduled to undertake a tour of Uttarkashi, could not take off and is still in Dehradun waiting for the weather to clear. The rescue operations are coming close to a wind up and the focus is now on around 1,400 pilgrims reported to be stranded in Badrinath.
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Choppers have been flown to the Himalayan shrine to evacuate the remaining pilgrims. With fewer pilgrims stranded in Badrinath now, the focus is on evacuating them as early as possible and supplying relief material to the affected villages in the worst-hit Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, officials said.
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Mass cremation of bodies in Kedarnath, the worst-affected in the flood fury, is also on, as authorities are racing against time to minimise risks of epidemic outbreak.
Authorities faced anxious moments when a Pawan Hans helicopter, engaged in rescue operations made an emergency landing at Harsil, two days after an IAF Mi17 rescue chopper crashed killing all its 20 occupants. No casualties were reported in the incident.
"The aircraft landed heavily at Harsil helipad and was damaged in the process," Wing Commander (Rtd) RS Brar said.
However, everyone on board the aircraft is safe, he added.
On June 21, a private helicopter that was being used for rescue operations had crashed. The pilot, though, was rescued.
2,375 villages affected by flood
A clear picture also emerged on Friday on the extent of devastation in the hill state. "Out of the total 22,000 villages in the state, 2,375 have been affected," Reddy said.
"Out of them, 1,636 have been connected so far while the rest 739 are yet to be connected," he added.
Gen Singh, who is on a day-long visit to affected areas, said he had asked his commanders to launch relief operations in ‘very, very difficult conditions’ in a proactive manner, without waiting for any requisition from authorities.
"We are getting information that there may still be some survivors in certain areas. Like I am told, Thursday we had an input that in north of Badrinath there were some people, 40 of them. We had launched sorties but couldn't detect them. We will be doing it again, if the weather permits" he added.
ASI team to visit Kedarnath temple
Archaeological Survey of India will send a five-member team to Kedarnath temple, ravaged by floods, to assess the extent of damage to the structure and prepare a roadmap for restoration work of the 1,000-year-old sanctum sanctorum.
The team led by ASI Additional Director General BR Mani will leave for the temple town, which was cut off from the rest of Uttarakhand after flash floods devastated the state nearly two weeks ago, on Sunday, officials said.
The team would assess the extent of damage caused by the flood to the ancient temple and also prepare the roadmap for restoration work with the help of the state government, they said.