Rain hits efforts to rescue State pilgrims in Uttarakhand

Army stops air evacuations due to adverse weather condition

Rain hits efforts to rescue State pilgrims in Uttarakhand

The risks for those stranded in the core areas of Uttarakhand have substantially increased after the armed forces temporarily stopped air evacuations due to adverse weather condition  on Monday.

Rescue operations at Badrinath, Gowrikund and Rudraprayag sectors where over 200 people from the State are stranded have been brought to a halt due to heavy rain.

“The Air Force has informed us that conducting operations in zero visibility poses threat both for the rescuers and the victims. Therefore, till the weather clears, the Air Force will only fly sorties to assess damage, drop food and medical supplies in affected areas,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (Internal Security) Hemanth Nimbalkar said.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted “very severe” rainfall for the next three days in Uttarakhand. “In a couple of areas, the rainfall may measure up to 25 centimetre for the next 72 hours. However, it will not be severe enough to trigger another flash floods in the Himalayan state,” IMD spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Infrastructure Development and Information Minister Santhosh Lad said the Karnataka Disaster Management Centre (KDMC) would set up ad hoc camps at Rudraprayag, Gowrikund and Badrinath to ensure that there is no lack of emergency facilities.

“We have requested the Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) officials to resume rescue operation by foot in the absence of air support.” Lad said.

Delay irks victims, kin

“We have been suffering for the past nine days without proper food and in unhygenic conditions. But the State government has not made any effort for our rescue,” Swapna, a resident of Koppal district, speaking from a hotel at Badrinath told Deccan Herald.

Another victim also alleged that senior officials of KDMC, coordinating the rescue operation, have stopped responding to their calls.

“We are not bothered about our lives, but there are children with the travel group, at least the officials can rescue them. There is no proper drinking water here, let alone food. Few decomposed bodies that were washed away by flood have accumulated behind our hotel, the stench is unbearable,” Prashanth Kumar, a Mysore resident stranded at Gowrikund, said.

“There are reports that some states have already rescued thousands of victims from affected areas, why then our leaders have not achieved even half of the success?,” Sumati Rao, a City resident,  said.

Working earnestly

Defending the rescue efforts, Nimbalkar said that the team had been working earnestly, “The frustration of victims in such hostile enviornment is obvious.

But we are doing our best. We have restored power supply and telecommunication lines in core areas and are trying to pacify them, though some victims and their families have harshly crtisised our effort.”

According to officials, the South-Indian victims especially have found it extremely difficult to cope with the local food.

“They have repeatedly complained that it is difficult for them to sustain on ‘rotis' and ‘parotas'. We are trying to address this concern, but it will take some time.”

Casualty toll unreported

Even since the State government has taken over the rescue of stranded victims of Karnataka from Uttarakhand, it has not reported any casualty or death. However, a few victims who have returned to the City reported of sighting several bodies in the evacuation camp. 

“We have recovered several bodies that are beyond recognition. Unless we identify the deceased, it is difficult to report the number of casualties from Karnataka,” a KDMC official said.

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