New Delhi/Dehradun: Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who arrived in Dehradun to take stock of the relief and rescue operations in the flood-hit state, said that all out efforts will be made to locate those who are still trapped within debris or are yet to be traced.

READ MORE ON UTTARAKHAND DISASTER

Addressing a press conference, Shinde said that it was still not known how many people are still trapped under the debris in flood ravaged areas of the state.
    
"We have to find out how many are still trapped under the debris," he said. The Home Minister was accompanied by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, NDMA Vice Chairman M Sashidhar Reddy and other senior officials.

Shinde also added that several people are still stranded in Badrinath and other areas and more choppers will be pressed into service to evacuate them.

Clear weather enables speedy rescue operation

With clear weather and hardly any possibility of rains, rescue operations in Uttarakhand gained the much needed momentum on Friday. Seventeen helicopters have been flown in to evacuate stranded people from various locations across the hill state.

According to the reports, the authorities are racing against time in order to prevent the outbreak of epidemic, a fear, which is looming large after the surfacing of the reports of complications like fever, diarrhea, gastrointestinal problems to the people in some worst hit villages. Meanwhile, mass cremation of bodies is going on in Kedarnath and its surrounding areas.

The focus now is on Badrinath Dham area, where majority of the pilgrims are now stranded, an official said. All major roads except the Joshimath-Badrinath, Rudraprayag-Gaurikund and Uttarkashi-Gangotri routes have been reopened, raising hopes for speedy evacuation, he added.
    
Earlier, Army Chief General Bikram Singh arrived on Friday morning at Gauchar to review ongoing relief operations and paid tribute to the 20 soldiers killed in a chopper crash near Gaurikund on Tuesday.
    
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is also scheduled to arrive in Dehradun to honour the bravehearts who laid down their lives during the rescue operations.
    
An official estimate said that approximately 1,237 persons are still stranded in different places across the state. Till now 1,04,687 persons have been evacuated from various places by road and air.

READ MORE: 20 bravehearts get Guard of Honour
   
Evacuation of pilgrims over in Harsil

In the last leg of their rescue operations in Uttarakhand, the Army on Thursday said it has completed evacuation of all pilgrims stranded in Harsil.
    
"532 stranded people have been evacuated by air from Harsil, leaving just 100 to 150 locals to be evacuated. With this, all pilgrims have been evacuated from Harsil. At least 450 people were evacuated by helicopters from Badrinath on Thursday," it said.
    
On rescue operations in Badrinath, the force said all able-bodied and willing people were motivated by the Army to undertake journey from Badrinath to Joshimath by a combination of foot and vehicles.
    
"While only 12 Kms is by foot, the remaining 31 Kms is undertaken by vehicles. 900 people set out on foot.  While 244 have already reached Joshimath, the others are on their way and expected to reach soon," the Army said.

1,04,095 people evacuated so far

A total of 1,04,095 people have been evacuated so far, according to NDMA Vice Chairman M Shashidhar Reddy.
     
The IAF has flown over 1,700 sorties, including over 60 on Thursday in which it has rescued over 14,748 people.
    
The Directorate General of Armed Forces Medical Services (DG, AFMS) has deployed 400 people of various specialties in flood-affected areas.
    
The DG, AFMS, has provided medical treatment to 7,000 civilians so far in the area and has also been sending medicines and other equipment for stranded people there.



Around 2,500 still stranded

Around 2,500 stranded people are still waiting to be evacuated but rescue operations in Kedarnath are over, ITBP Director General Ajay Chadha told reporters in Delhi.
     
With the Army, IAF, ITBP and NDMA finetuning strategies to bring the rescue mission to an end, Lt Gen Anil Chait, General Officer Commanding in Chief (GOC-in-C), Central Command expressed confidence that "Operation Surya Hope" could be wrapped up in the next few days.

‘Will stay till last person is evacuated’

Sending a word of assurance, Army Chief General Bikram Singh on Friday said the armed forces will continue their operations till all the people are rescued from various locations in the flood-hit state of Uttarakhand.

General Singh, who is on a day-long visit to the 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, yesterday we had an input that in north of Badrinath there were some people, 40 of them. We had launched sorties yesterday but couldn't detect them,” General Singh said.

(JPN/Agencies)

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