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50,000 still stranded in Uttarakhand; toll rises to 207

50,000 still stranded in Uttarakhand; toll rises to 207

Dehradun: The terrible magnitude of nature's fury continued to unfold in Uttarakhand today where 40 bodies of flood victims were found, taking the toll in the disaster to 207 even as rescue workers raced to evacuated over 9000 stranded in Kedarnath and Badrinath.

The toll was expected to rise as Uttarakhand Principal Secretary Rakesh Sharma said casualty figures can be "shockingly high".

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said in Delhi that, "So far, 207 people have lost their lives. But the toll may go up as debris in many areas is yet to be cleared".

50,000 people were still stranded in different inaccessible parts of Uttarakhand, he said.

In Haridwar, 40 bodies of those killed in the flash floods and incessant rains have been found.

"40 bodies have been recovered from different points along the Ganga since last evening and taken to the district hospital where each of them is being given a number and an identification tag," Senior Superintendent of Police Haridwar Rajeev Swaroop said.

An equal number of bodies are likely to be recovered soon from different areas located along the banks of the Ganga in the holy city, Swaroop said.

Citing difficulties in conducting the autopsy of so many bodies with limited facilities available, the official said additional teams of doctors have been requisitioned for the purpose.

Rescuers were focusing on rain-ravaged Kedarnath area where 250 people are stranded before shifting focus to Badrinath where 9000 people are stuck, officials said.

Terming it as the "worst tragedy of the millennium", Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat said, "It will take us at least five years to recover from the extensive damages caused to the entire infrastructure network in the Kedarnath area which is the worst affected".

Rawat, who had visited the Kedarnath area, said that he spent five hours there and was shocked to see the extent of the damage caused to the buildings and area adjoining the shrine.

"The centre of faith has turned into a burial ground.

Bodies are scattered in the area. Only the sanctum sanctorum is intact," he said.

Thousands of people were still said to be stranded in various parts of the state that was hit by cloudburst and floods in the upper reaches that left several hundreds of homes, rest houses and buildings in ruins and thousands of people missing.

In Himachal Pradesh, rescue operations were on to evacuate stranded people in rain-hit Kinnaur district with two dedicated choppers pressed into service even as reports of more people stuck in interior Pooh, Nako and Kaza areas poured in.

Two IAF choppers and one state chopper had been deployed for evacuating the stranded but one chopper has developed some problem.

"So far over 550 people have been airlifted but the number is steadily increasing with reports of more people struck at different places, pouring in.Helicopter sorties have also been planned for Pooh, Nako, Kaza and other interior places," officials said.

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