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Pilgrims rescued, foodgrain shortage in some U'khand villages

Dehradun, July 2, 2013 (PTI): 12:42 IST
A relief worker arranges material for the victims of Uttarakhand floods in Surat on Monday.PTI Photo
Rescue of pilgrims stranded in Badrinath came to an end today with about 150 of them being safely evacuated even as the administration struggled with the task of supplying relief to remote parts of Uttarakhand where foodgrain shortage has been reported in 170 villages.

On the 17th day of the calamity, the task of extricating bodies from the debris and their disposal in Kedarnath also remained a major headache for the administration with no cremation having taken place there over the past two days.

The number of bodies cremated there so far is still pegged at 36. Chamoli District Magistrate S A Murugesan said, "All the pilgrims stranded in Badrinath dham have been evacuated.Now some locals and Nepali labourers remain there who will be evacuated by this evening if the weather permits."

However, supply of relief to affected villages continues to pose a challenge to the administration with a vast network of roads and bridges still damaged in the area, he told PTI over phone.

The bridge over Alaknanda at Lambagar is badly damaged which will take at least 2-3 months to be repaired, he said, adding that the BRO is working on it.

Officials said taking relief material to remote villages due to poor connectivity is a major problem.

Though choppers are being used for the purpose the exercise is confined to just a few areas, they said.

With Gaurikund-Kedar Highway still closed, there is foodgrain shortage in at least 170 villages in Kedarghati area in Rudraprayag district, officials said.

But relief material has been despatched to Kalimath, Chandrapuri and Sauri areas in the district.

Gangotri Highway in Uttarkashi district is blocked at eight points while Yamunotri Highway is closed from Hanumanchatti to Yamunotri making it difficult to take relief material to affected villages.

With the threat of epidemic outbreak looming large, a team of medical experts has been sent to Kedarnath to expedite the process of extricating bodies from the debris and their disposal.

"A team of medical experts and trained police personnel has been despatched to the Himalayan shrine to expedite the process with the threat of an epidemic outbreak looming large," DIG Amit Sinha told PTI.

The bodies are decomposing already and lack of heavy equipment to remove tonnes of debris under which bodies may be lying has made the task difficult.

Amid conflicting figures of the death toll in the calamity, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna had said yesterday that he would prefer not to quantify a figure.

"Police officials who have visited the affected areas said 500-600 bodies are visible, many may be lying underneath heaps of debris and many reported missing are yet to be found," he had said.

After a preliminary assessment of the extent of the colossal tragedy, the Uttarakhand Cabinet had yesterday decided to revise the norms for relief and rehabilitation by widening the ambit of beneficiaries ranging from small kiosks to 'dhabas' to big hotels.

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