The Indian Air Force (IAF) has committed 13 more aircraft for relief and rescue work, taking the total to 43, in flood-hit Uttarakhand, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said Friday.
Tewari added that the cabinet secretary is monitoring the relief operations.
"The IAF has committed 13 more aircraft, taking the total to 43. It is also activating landing grounds at Gouchar and Dharasu in Uttarakhand to establish an airbase," Tewari told reporters here after a ministerial meeting on the Uttarakhand disaster.
"IAF plans to operate Advanced Light Helicopter and Cheetah for rescue operations. MI 17 has landed in Gouchar with food and paratroopers," he added.
Tewari said that the situation is "being monitored at the level of the cabinet secretary and regular meetings are taking place."
According to the minister, over 33,000 people have been rescued to safer places while trains are carrying all stranded passengers back to their destinations free of cost.
"The ministry of home affairs has requested that the government of India release Rs.145 crore from the state disaster relief fund. The home minister will visit the state tomorrow (Saturday)," he said.
"There are 739 mobile towers in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi, and of them, 207 are down. Measures are in place to see that these towers are made operational in the next 24 hours," Tewari said.
There have been reports that environmental degradation and deforestation due to large scale hydro power and other projects were responsible for the floods that ravaged many areas of the hill state.
Tewari refused to be drawn into a discussion on the causes of the disaster, and said it was not the time to figure out whether this was a man-made disaster.
"Whatever has happened is very sad and unfortunate. Today we should not focus on whether it is a man-made disaster or a natural calamity. We should concentrate on finding ways to rescue those who are stuck," the information and broadcasting minister said.
Thousands are said to be missing in Uttarakhand after unprecedented rains and cloudburst led to landslides and flash floods. More than 200 people were killed and over 50,000 are still stranded.