Govt asks for all-weather choppers in Uttarakhand

Govt asks for all-weather choppers in Uttarakhand

Fresh spell of rains on Sunday halted helicopter operations to ferry rations to remote Uttarakhand districts reeling under shortage of foodgrain even as wet weather put brakes on the task of cremation of bodies in Kedarnath.

The Badrinath highway was also closed for three hours due to incessant rains leaving 500 vehicles, including many carrying relief, stranded. However, the highway was later opened for traffic. “Chopper operations to drop relief material have been stopped due to rains.

Cremation of bodies in Kedarnath also could not be taken up due to rains,” IG Ram Meena said. As the network of major roads in these districts are still damaged making it impossible for the administration to transport trucks carrying relief material to affected villages especially the ones totally cut off, the state government was thinking of deploying weather resistant choppers to ensure food supplies to villages facing foodgrain shortage, an official said.

The state Disaster Management and Mitigation Department will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss how choppers capable of flying even in bad weather can be pressed into service.

Meanwhile, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industries (ASSOCHAM) on Sunday sought a special aid of Rs 10,000 crore from the Centre for rehabilitation and redevelopment work in disaster-hit Uttarakhand.

The demand is based on the recommendation of an ASSOCHAM team which surveyed the affected areas in the worst-hit Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi and Chamoli districts to prepare an estimate of the devastation caused to physical infrastructure and villages by the recent natural calamity, ASSOCHAM Secretary General D S Rawat said.

Wet weather and lack of heavy equipment were also coming in the way of removal of debris and disposal of bodies in Kedarghati.

The lightweight equipment provided by the NDRF is proving inadequate to remove tonnes of debris in Kedarghati under which bodies may still be lying, officials said.

Paucity of foodstuff for personnel engaged in the exercise at the high altitude shrine has further complicated their task, they said. The food stocks at the Himalayan shrine are fast running out and some of the personnel engaged in the operation are also reported to be sick. 

A 13-member police team trying to tear its way through heaps of debris lying on the roads to Kedarnath had to return from Rambada to Gaurikund as it could not go further.

Relief material could not be transported to affected villages in Kedarghati over the past three days due to bad weather.

Administration claims that relief material has been distributed in 36 villages of Rudraprayag but the number of affected villages in the district is 128 which means 80 more villages are immediately in need of relief.

Relief choppers could not operate even in Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Uttarkashi districts due to inclement weather compounding the problems of affected people as well as those of police personnel engaged in relief work.

It is also being considered to recall the team sent to Kedarnath for removal of debris and disposal of bodies and replace it with a new one, an official here said.

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