45 Army, IAF choppers; 10,000 troops deployed in Uttarakhand
Stepping up relief and rescue operations in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry has deployed more than 45 choppers belonging to the Army and the IAF there along with more than 10,000 troops in the rain-ravaged parts of the hill state.
IAF has deployed 20 Mi-17s and 16 Advanced Light Helicopters in the state where they have evacuated over 1,500 people. Army has also deployed over 8,000 of its troops there along with over 3,000 personnel of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), Defence Ministry officials said today.
Defence Minister A K Antony is monitoring the situation and has directed the armed forces to extend maximum possible support in the operations, they said.
Against the backdrop of media reports suggesting that the standard procedure of rescuing old and sick people the first was not being followed there, IAF has also requested the state government that such people be given priority in relief operations while being evacuated, they said.
The Ministry said BRO has also been successful in reopening the important road axis from Rishikesh to Joshimath along with several other major roads in the last 48 hours.
Army has also deployed over 100 Special Forces troops in Kedarnath and Sonprayag area, which is cut-off till now, to link up with people who have been stranded there for last four to five days, they said.
"The Army has so far rescued more than 11,000 people, mainly from Govindghat and Harsil. About 10,000 people are also being provided food and medical assistance," an Army release said.
Army has also launched a column of its units in Kumaon region where more than 50-60 people have been stranded on Pindari Glacier and Sunder Dunga Glacier.
"An Army column led by two officers and 77 soldiers reached Kapkot in Bageshwar district this morning. The column is currently moving by foot towards Gumla and is expected to reach both the glaciers and likely to link up with people by June 21," Army spokesperson Virendra Singh said.
Army jawans also rescued 11 members and 43 porters of a mountain expedition from Arva Tal on Gangotri-Mana axis and have brought them safely to Ghastoli from where they will be relocated to Badrinath after medical aid.
"Communication nodes have been established at Gaucher, Harsil, Joshimath and Rudraprayag to enable people to contact their families. 30 satellite phones have so far been set up and 20 more are likely to be used for benefit of stranded pilgrims," Singh said.
Both Army and IAF are trying to establish landing grounds for their aircraft in forward regions for evacuating larger number of people from there.
IAF is looking at the possibility of landing its C-130J Special Operations aircraft at Gauchar to quickly deploy more relief material and personnel, and evacuate more people.
"Army is carrying out reconnaissance to examine the feasibility of making a larger helipad at Gagaria on Hemkund Sahib axis so that large number of people can be evacuated using MI-17 helicopters," Singh said.