An Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter involved in rescue operations in Uttarakhand and carrying 20 people on board, including IAF, paramilitary personnel and rescued civilians, crashed on Tuesday.
Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) M Sashidhar Reddy said eight bodies have been recovered and chances of any survivor among those onboard were remote. “There were 20 people onboard, including NDRF, ITBP and IAF personnel. Eight bodies have been recovered,” he said. In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said the Mi-17 V5 chopper was on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath and while returning from Kedarnath it crashed north of Gaurikund.
“While a Court of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate the accident, the IAF’s rescue operations continue,” the MoD statement said. State officials said it’s not known if weather was a factor in the crash. “Three choppers have been sent to Gaurikund to locate the wreckage of the crashed copter,” they said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the accident during relief operations had come as a huge shock. “My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost their lives. The nation mourns with me the loss of our heroes whose selfless work has saved thousands of lives. Continuing their work would be the best homage to them,” the PM said.
Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government pledged assistance to the stranded pilgrims, promising to evacuate all who were stranded, within 72 hours, after fresh rainfall hampered search and rescue efforts at the site of Joshimath and Badrinath, destroyed by flashfloods and landslides which killed as many as 830 people and injured over 5,000.
State officials said only 53 helicopter sorties could be done due to inclement weather in the morning, and a total of 535 pilgrims had been airlifted. They said over 8,000 people remained stranded at various locations. About 5,000 people are in makeshift camps at Badrinath while 1,200 others are awaiting evacuation at Harsil.