Dehradun: Racing against time in the face of predicted adverse weather, over 10,000 people were on Saturday evacuated from various upper reaches of flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, including the worst-affected Kedarnath, as the death toll may touch 1,000.
In all, 70,000 stranded people have been brought to safety in the mammoth ongoing multi-agency operations and more than 22,000 remain to be evacuated, according to information given by the Centre and the state government.
While tomorrow the weather may stabilise, those engaged in the operations are worried about the rain forecast for Monday and Tuesday that could hamper their work.
“The death toll is likely to be around 1,000,” Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna told reporters in Dehradun as the Himalayan tragedy unfolded after the gushing waters left behind a trail of death and destruction.
A conclusive figure can be arrived at only after the slush and debris under which bodies could be buried are cleared, he said.
Officials said 123 bodies were recovered from the Kedarnath temple complex raising the official death toll to 680. Army officials said 83 bodies were identified and handed over to authorities.
Mounting the biggest-ever operation to evacuate people from a disaster zone in peace time, 61 helicopters, including 43 of IAF and 11 of the army, were deployed. World’s biggest Russian-made MI-26 helicopters that can carry about 150 passengers were pressed into service on Saturday.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told reporters in Delhi that while the Army and ITBP rescued 4,000 people each, air force chipped in to move the rest.
He said all central and state government agencies were working in full coordination, a point he made hours after Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said there seemed to have been some lack of coordination.
Former Home Secretary V.K. Duggal, who is also a member of the National Disaster Management Authority, has been appointed to coordinate the work of various agencies in rescue and relief operations.