India’s 20 bravehearts, who died in an IAF helicopter crash earlier this week in Uttarakhand, were remembered and a guard of honour was presented to their mortal remains on Friday with Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, State Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and Army chief General Bikram Singh leading the mourners.
The 20 men - five from the IAF, six from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and nine from the National Disaster Relief Force - had died on Tuesday during the helicopter operation to rescue people stranded in the higher reaches of the flood-hit state.
“The guard of honour to the 20 bravehearts is a little step from our side to remember their supreme sacrifice for the service of the nation. We offer our prayer to all those who lost their lives,” Shinde said on the sidelines of the event at Dehradun.
The military, which is carry out the rescue operations along with ITBP and NDRF, will give priority to evacuate the sick, old, disabled and women from the Badrinath sector.
The 45 IAF choppers now operating in Uttarakhand will remain in the state for another fortnight to complete rescue and to help in the relief work. General Bikram Singh, who visited the state to meeting with the troopers involved in the rescue efforts, gave a word of assurance to the people, saying the forces will continue their operations till all stranded people are rescued. Singh, who left for Uttarakhand on early Friday and returned to New Delhi in the evening, said the army officers would carry out the rescue and relief operations in a proactive manner without waiting for any request from the civilian authorities.
“We are getting information that there may still be some survivors in certain areas,” he said, giving an example of information that around 40 people were stranded north of Badrinath, but an aerial search could not locate them.
“We will be doing it (search) again, if the weather permits. But the endeavour is to locate all our citizens, wherever they are and get them out,” he told reporters at Gauchar, where he visited in an helicopter from Dehradun.With the weather improving on Friday, the Army and the IAF operated 17 helicopters in rescue missions and brought 1,237 people to safety from different places in the hill state.