An overcast sky and low visibility at places today did not come in the way of air rescue operations in rain-hit Uttarakhand, even though a thin veil of early morning fog briefly delayed flight of choppers from Sahasradhara helipad and Jollygrant airport.
A Pawan Hans pilot engaged in relief and rescue operations in Gauchar said the weather is okay in Uttarkashi with no major hindrance to air rescue operations.
As cremation of decaying bodies recovered from Kedarnath could not be done yesterday due to bad weather, police tried to ensure that the process began today in view of threat of outbreak of an epidemic looming large, officials said.
Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne arrived here this morning on a morale boosting mission a day after 20 IAF, ITBP and NDRF personnel were killed in a chopper crash near Gaurikund in Rudraprayag district.
Talking to reporters here before flying to Gauchar to take stock of the situation, Browne said he was here to pep up the morale of personnel engaged in rescue operations following yesterday's unfortunate incident.
"Though we lost brave personnelof the IAF, ITBPand NDRF in the chopper crash, it should not dent our determination to carry out the rescue mission successfully. We will ensure that every survivor stranded in Badrinath and Harshil sectors is evacuated," Browne said.
Condoling the death of soldiers on a rescue mission in Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said it was a loss for the nation and declared one days' state mourning today.
He has already announced a compensastion of Rs 10 lakh each to the kin of the deceased personnel.
Bahuguna, who is scheduled to tour the affected areas in Pithoragarh district, said he will go ahead with his programme if the weather improves.
Rescuers have evacuated 2,403 stranded pilgrims even as nearly 8,000 persons waited to be evacuated--most of them at Harsil and Badrinath, officials said, as the death toll rose to 822 with 142 bodies being found, including 127 in Kedarnath area, the epicentre of destruction.
Meanwhile, Guptkashi SDM Laxmi Raj Chauhan said though there was a slight rainfall this afternoon, there was no fresh landslide in the area.
According to an official estimate, around 1,000 persons were airlifted to safer destinations from various places where road connectivity is disrupted including Harsil, Bhatwari, Maneri and Badrinath till last evening besides evacuation of another 1,000 persons by road.
In Badrinath and adjoining areas, 204 persons were rescued by five choppers since this morning.
Since the start of evacuation operations 99,000 persons have been evacuated from different places across the state by road and air so far, it said.
The losses are being assessed but it must run into thousands of crores of Rupees, it said.
The Chief Minister visited Gangotri valley in Uttarakashi district, undertaking aerial survey of Maneri and Bhatwari area and met the affected people at Chinyalisaur and Matli.
He reviewed the situation with district officials, Army, Air Force and the officials of paramilitary forces.
Five MI-17 helicopters of IAF and 6 civil helicopters have been pressed into operation in the Gangotri valley for evacuating the stranded pilgrims to safer destinations.
Official sources said all the stranded pilgrims from Gangotri, Matli, Maneri and Bhatwari are likely to be evacuated today if the weather conditions remain favourable.
In Badrinath, 6 MI-17 and 5 Civil Helicopters are in operation for evacuations.
In the Kumaon region, 2 MI-17, 1ALH and 2 civil helicopters have been provided to drop food supplies, medical aid and other relief material to the affected areas including Kapkot, Badiyakot (district Bageshwar), Darma, Chaudas, Johar, Pindar, Milam, Ralam, Burphu, Martoli, Bugdiyar, Munsyari, Sirkha, Sosa, Gargiyang, Gungi, Napalchu, Khutti and Dugtu.
All the District Magistrates have been instructed to start distributing GR (Gratuitous Relief) immediately and ensure that Kerosene and LPG are in sufficient quantity in their respective areas.
All the District Magistrates have been instructed to assess the damage caused to the public infrastructure and start restoration work on priority basis.