22 choppers deployed to evacuate people in Uttarakhand: Govt

22 choppers deployed to evacuate people in Uttarakhand: Govt

Intensifying relief and rescue operations, the government has pressed into service 22 helicopters to airlift those stranded by flash floods in Uttarakhand where the death toll has mounted to 150.

With the weather improving today, Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh said that nearly 3,000 people have already been evacuated.

The government, he said, has agreed to the demand for the supply of additional food grains in the flood-hit areas.

Addressing a special conference at the AICC heaqquarters along with party spokesperson P C Chacko, the minister said over 60,000 people reported stranded include those staying in hotels and guest houses. Many of them have not been able to make communication with their family members, he said, adding that if possible, they should try and establish contact.

Noting that the government's first priority is to evacuate the people who are in grave danger, Singh said, "It's not that 60,000 people are stranded in hills and water."

He declined to go into the remarks of BJP leaders including Sushma Swaraj with regard to the disaster, saying, "Instead of making slogans, what is important is what we do...I would not like to make it a political issue or give it a colour of politics."

Underlining that Congress President Sonia Gandhi was in constant touch with the authorities, Chacko said that AICC General Secretary incharge of Congress President's Office (CPO) Ambika Soni has asked all PCC chiefs to help in the relief operations.

He downplayed questions about lack of preparedness leading to the casualties, saying it rained more than 400 per cent of the normal this time.

"If needed, these things will definitely be discussed," Singh said when asked about demands for declaring this tragedy a national calamity.

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