With the weather in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand likely to get bad again, the army is speeding up the rescue operations, said Army Chief General Bikram Singh.
He said the Army was doing its best by rushing its personnel with logistics, medical cover and ration to extricate people stuck in the flood-hit areas.
"The time is limited. We have got a window till tomorrow (Sunday) as the weather might get bad again. We are rushing our people. Yesterday (Friday) we landed paratroopers. We are trying to reach even those areas where there is nobody at the moment to ensure that in case anybody stuck we are able to get them off from there," the army chief said.
He was talking to reporters on the sidelines of the Combined Graduation Parade held at Air Force Academy, Dundigal near here Saturday.
"We have increased the army's footprint from 500 to over 6,000 at the moment. It is a time consuming effort as because rains, roads have got washed away. The accessibility is restricted. That notwithstanding we are doing our best because it is very important to save precious lives and important to ensure that we address the aspirations of our friends and countrymen who are stuck there," he said.
"Let me assure you that we are doing our best to ensure that maximum army guys move forward (to provide) medical cover, ration store and logistic cover (and) be able to extricate people who are stuck there, to assuage their sufferings and to give them the basic necessities," General Bikram Singh added.
Terming the floods a tragedy, he pointed out that the army, in coordination with air force and home ministry was carrying out rescue operations.
He ruled out deploying more men for the rescue operations. "Pressing more troops could prove to be counter productive as more troops need more ration and equipment for their own consumption," he said.
Asked about the threats to Amarnath Yatra, the army chief said threat perceptions had always been there. He said the plans were in place to tackle any threats. He assured that the army, in coordination with state and central police forces, would take all steps to protect the pilgrims.
30,000 people still stranded
Around 30,000 people were estimated to be stranded in rain-ravaged Uttarakhand, officials said. Rescuers scrambled Saturday to evacuate those who are still trapped as met office predicted rains from June 24.
Home Ministry officials said that efforts have been stepped up to rescue the stranded people. They said around 30,000 people were estimated to be stranded and over 60,000 had been rescued.
Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) spokesperson Deepak K. Pandey said over 9,500 people were still trapped in Kedarnath and the Badrinath region.
He said around 8,000 were estimated to be stranded in Badrinath region.
He said a new ropeway has been installed at Lambagar, about 10 km from Badrinath, to rescue people.
Pandey said stranded people were being brought to Govindghat and then taken to Joshimath through bus and other vehicles. In Joshimath, names of rescued people are being noted before sending them for onward journey to Dehradun, Haridwar and Rishikesh.
He said women, children and elderly were being sent through helicopters while the youth and able-bodied were being helped out through ropeway.
"About 400 persons have been rescued through ropeway since yesterday (Friday)," Pandey said.
He said rescue efforts have been augmented in view of possibility of rain in the region from June 24.