Thousands of flood-hit without food in Uttarakhand
As the skies cleared Thursday, rescue and evacuation operations picked up in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand but those who survived the nature's fury alleged major food shortages.
Harrowing tales of devastation and agony emerged as the air force, army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) continued to rescue people from the hills.
Officials told IANS that while the evacuation process had been fast-tracked, more than 70,000 people were still stranded at various places in the hill state.
"We are trying our best but there are limitations. The army is working under testing times to the best of its abilities," an army official told IANS.
Officials of the highly revered Kedarnath temple say the place where it is located has been devastated, and that there was only death and ruins.
B.D. Singh, chief executive officer of the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee, said the chances of reviving the pilgrimage to these places in the next few years was slim.
"What we are seeing is very painful and unbelievable, we don't expect the Char Dham Yatra to resume in the next three years," Singh said.
More than four days after the cloudburst and incessant rains led to misery, the thousands caught up at various places were faced with lack of potable water, food and power.
Many of those who have returned safely told IANS that the stranded do not have enough food and prices of even potato chips and mineral water had shot up in the wake of shortages.
"There is an acute shortage of drinking water, medicines and food. One can't imagine what the situation is like," said a pilgrim from Basti in Uttar Pradesh who was rescued by a private chopper.
To bring back his family of five, he said, he had to cough up Rs.11 lakh on touch down at Dehradun.
"People are fleecing others, without showing compassion," he complained. The food packets being dropped by choppers were dropping in the rivers, he said.
Authorities said 20,000 food packets were dropped by choppers Thursday. Some 500 cars stuck between Guptkashi and Ghansali in Uttarakhand had also been taken out.
A temporary helipad has been built in Gaurikund. An aerial survey of Badrinath and Ghangharia was completed Thursday.
While the Uttarakhand government did not release any fresh estimate of the dead, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna admitted that the the death toll would be "much higher".
Some officials fear thousands may be dead after being washed away in the strong currents of rain swollen rivers or after coming under the debris of collapsed buildings.
According to informed sources, the disaster management department has said that 510 big and small roads have been damaged, some completely ripped