With just a few thousands still left to be rescued from the flood-hit Uttarakhand, the armed forces on Tuesday said in another two or three days they would be able to complete the rescue operations.
The Army, which began rescue operations on June 17, has in the past eight days rescued over 25,000 people, mostly pilgrims and some locals, who were stranded or washed away in the floods.
“Once the rescue works are over, the armed forces will focus on relief work and retrieving bodies and providing them a decent cremation,” an official of the Union Ministry of Defence said.
The Army has deployed over 8,500 personnel and nine helicopters, alongside the IAF’s 45 choppers, for the rescue operations. The Army troopers, with special mountaineering skills, trekked higher reaches of the state in the Kedarnath, Joshimath, Harsil and Pithoragarh sectors, to rescue those stranded there.
“The Army on Tuesday continued its relief, rescue and evacuation operations in the affected areas. The focus continued to be on Badrinath and Harsil sectors. Army helicopters carried out sorties both in Badrinath and Kedarnath valleys. As many as 253 people have been evacuated from Harsil and there are around 1,000 people awaiting evacuation,” an Army report said.
“About 740 people have been evacuated from Badrinath. Around 260 people crossed Alaknanda at Lambagar using helicopter bridge and Burma bridge and another 500 are still waiting to cross over,” the report added. At Sobala valley of Dharchula in Pithoragarh district, the Army evacuated 92 people.
The Army also provided assistance in taking care of ponies and mules stranded on Hemkund axis. A veterinary doctor and two paramedics were deployed to render medical aid to the animals. Efforts are underway to provide similar assistance to agencies responsible for taking care of animals in Gaurikund.
To speed up evacuation, Army engineers have commenced construction of steel foot bridge across Alaknanda at Lambagar in Badrinath valley. Army psychiatrists were deployed in various places to provide professional counselling to people awaiting evacuation.
Meanwhile, the Border Road Organisation (BRO) has further intensified its efforts to restore road connectivity in the affected areas by pressing into service more than 95 excavators and bull-dozers. More equipment are being brought into the area to speed up the work.
Though around 4,000 BRO personnel and labourers are involved in the work, heavy rains are hampering the road clearance work.