Dehradun: Evacuation of stranded people from flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand Saturday 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.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, meanwhile, arrived here to review ongoing rescue efforts in consultation with Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna.
An eight-member team of experts is also being sent to Kedarnath shrine today 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.
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.
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.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has said that 550 people have died while many have been injured.
"550 deaths have occurred till Friday, 392 people have been injured while 334 people are missing. 1,751 houses have been damaged, 147 bridges have been damaged and 1,307 roads have been damaged,” Shinde told reporters.
He said the identification of dead bodies has begun and the DNA tests of decomposed bodies will also be undertaken. "Despite bad weather the Army, NDRF, ITBP are landing and conducting rescue operations. Operations are on a war-footing About 200 people are stuck in Jangalchetti, our priority right now is to provide them food somehow," Shinde added.
According to NDTV, 55 helicopters are being used in what is the military's largest rescue and relief operation ever.
IBN Live has reported that rescue operations are on a war-footing with the Met department predicting rains within the next 48 hours.
"Rains should increase from June 24, starting in the Kumaon region to the Dehradun belt. There may also be light or more rains from June 25 to 28 in the entire state. We had indicated that there could be an increase in cloud cover and rain. Fog could also be a problem," said Met department Director Anand Sharma.