Joshimath: Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who was amongst the many pilgrims and tourists stranded in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand due to the landslides and heavy rains, on Tuesday lauded the rescue operations conducted by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel at Joshimath.

"A lot of people say we are trapped here. But I believe we are being kept safe by the grace of baba. I thank ITBP for the rescue operation they are doing. I am happy to be alive. A lot of people have been taken to safety by them," he said.

Harbhajan had taken shelter with the ITBP troops since yesterday. The cricketer, who was returning from the Hemkunt Sahib Gurudwara, could not go beyond because of the inclement weather.

The Central Government has been extending all assistance, as sought by the State Governments for the rescue and relief operations in flood-affected areas of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had a telephonic conversation with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and assured all possible support to him. Union Home Secretary R.K Singh is also in touch with the Chief Secretary of the state.

Two additional teams of National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) have reached Kedarnath today and have started relief and rescue operations and 72 persons have been rescued. One team of NDRF is in Sangla and the other team is on way to Po to assist the district administration in relief work.

On the request of state government and directions of the Defence Ministry, helicopters have been made available and 50 pilgrims have been rescued from Kedarnath and brought to Gupt Kashi.
Thirty-four persons have lost their lives in different parts of Uttarakhand so far.

(Agencies)

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