New Delhi: With the rescue operations heading towards its end in the rain-ravaged hill state of Uttarakhand, the next major challenge before the government is the rehabilitation of those who have survived one of the worst floods in the history of India.

The government is concerned over the looming threat of epidemic which could be caused due to the rotting of bodies in the worst hit parts of the state. With the bodies already beginning to putrefy, the air is laden with a foul stench which may trigger the spread of deadly diseases in the areas.


It is estimated that over 100 villages have been badly damaged by the flash floods. The number could be much higher as many areas of the four affected districts - Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Garhwal - remain cut off.

Air rescue continues despite low visibility

There are several villages where people have been left without food for days and they are facing acute shortage of potable water. Villagers mainly count on natural springs in the area to get drinking water which are believed to have become contaminated due to rotting of bodies.

3,500 yet to be evacuated

With the weather clearing a bit and a threat of epidemic looming large, mass cremation of bodies of people killed in the rain fury in Uttarakhand finally began in Kedarnath on Wednesday, while 3,500 people are still waiting to be rescued 11 days after the disaster.

As 1,000 more stranded people were evacuated from Badrinath and Harshil sectors through air and road routes despite rain and fog. Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne on a morale boosting mission to Uttarakhand after the IAF chopper crash pledged to continue with rescue efforts and hoped to wrap it up in the next few days.

"The cremation of bodies in Kedarnath which was being put off again and again for the past two days due to bad weather was finally taken up this afternoon," IAS officer Ravinath Raman said from Guptkashi. The temple town of Kedarnath was the epicentre of destruction. However, the number of bodies cremated was not immediately known.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said people stranded in Harsil and Badrinath areas would be rescued in the next two days if the weather remains conducive to flights and all steps were being taken to prevent epidemic outbreak in the flood-affected regions.

2000 evacuated from Badrinath
A bridge constructed by Border Roads Organization at Pandukeshwar in rain-hit Uttarakhand on Wednesday helped the Army evacuate 2000 stranded people from Badrinath where 2750 people are still awaiting to be rescued.
Another 540 people are awaiting evacuation from Harsil where 600 people were pulled out by Army using various means.
Bad weather hampered the rescue efforts through air, but evacuation of those stranded continued by roads, a statement issued by the Group of Ministers on Media said.
Ration and edible oil supplies have reached Badrinath for those stranded as well as the local residents. No fresh survivors were found in the Jungle Chatti area where the Army carried out reconnaissance missions.

Death toll may rise
Vice Chairman of NDMA M Sashidhar Reddy said there is high possibility of the death toll climbing up. "There is 10 feet high debris in Kedarnath and we fear that several bodies are trapped," he said.
Reddy also said that nearly 350 people continue to remain untraceable, raising fears that all of them are dead. According to official figures, so far 822 people lost their lives following the natural disaster in Uttarakhand.

DGP Satyavrat Bansal said disposal of all the bodies at Kedarnath was an onerous task with a large number of bodies lying underneath tonnes of debris and extricating them would not be easy as heavy equipment like JCBs will be need to be transported to the high altitude shrine for the purpose.
State minister Harak Singh Rawat also said clearing the shrine area of the debris and the bodies would not be easy. Till now, Matli, Bhatwari, Maneri have been fully evacuated. In Badrinath, one MI-17 and three Civil Helicopters are in operation for evacuations. More choppers are being kept on standby but due to inclement weather conditions, rescue operations are being hampered.   
U’khand govt to restore Kedarnath shrine
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Wednesday announced that the state government will reconstruct Kedarnath shrine, with which people of the country have an emotional association.
Bahuguna said the state government will reconstruct the shrine and restore its lost glory.
When told by reporters that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had also offered to reconstruct the temple, he said anyone was welcome to join in the noble mission.


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