Dehradun: Admitting that there has been a lack of coordination between government agencies engaged in rescue work in Uttarakhand, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Saturday said operations are underway on a war footing to evacuate about 40,000 pilgrims still stranded.
Shinde, who arrived here on Saturday to review rescue operations in the wake of the tragedy, termed the deluge as a "national crisis" and set a three-day deadline to the agencies engaged in evacuation work to complete the process. He said steps are being taken up on a war footing to rescue those stranded despite bad weather hampering operations by security forces.

READ MORE: Uttarakhand Disaster

Talking to reporters soon after a review meeting held with CM and senior government officials at the secretariat here, Shinde said footbridges are being built between Gaurikund to Kedarnath and Pandukeshwar to Badrinath to rescue stranded pilgrims. Those stuck in Junglechatti area being provided immediate relief by the security forces on a priority.
Admitting there has been a "lack of coordination between government agencies engaged in rescue operations," the Home Minister said Disaster management expert V K Duggal will be stationed here to oversee and coordinate rescue efforts. He said the Centre is keeping an eye on rescue efforts but made it clear that it is a natural calamity and not a man-made disaster.

Shinde said some of the bodies recovered from different places are badly mutilated making it difficult to identify them and added that the DNA of the victims will be preserved.

Meanwhile, the evacuation of stranded people from flood-hit areas picked up pace with security forces rescuing 17 foreign tourists from Dharasu and sighting 1000 pilgrims stuck between Kedarnath and Gaurikund even as bad weather hampered chopper operations at some places.

An eight-member team of experts is also being sent to Kedarnath shrine on Saturday to take a count of bodies lying in the temple area, Disaster Management authorities here said.

Photos of the bodies strewn all over the area will be taken and put on the state government's official website, they said.

Chopper operations were hampered here early this morning with overcast conditions delaying the programme of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who was to undertake an aerial survey of the affected areas in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts.

About 1000 more pilgrims stranded in Rambara and Junglechatti areas en route to Kedarnath shrine in Rudraprayag district were sighted by security forces.

These people seem to have taken refuge in the gorges and ravines in these areas when the massive deluge occurred nearly a week ago.

READ MORE: Rains to return, may hit rescue operations

Hungry for days, many of those sighted are ill and in need of immediate medical care, official sources said, adding the sick and ailing among them are being evacuated on a priority basis.
Apart from the 40 choppers in operation, the Rajasthan government has also given two choppers and 30 buses for evacuation of pilgrims. The Gujarat government has also put into operation two chartered planes 747 Boeings (Jet Airways) with a capacity of 140 persons each to ferry pilgrims from the state stuck in high altitude areas to Ahmedabad. A control room for pilgrims from Gujarat has been set up at Shantikunj Haridwar.


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Rains to return, may hit rescue operations