Rescuers found 40 bodies floating in the Ganges river near Haridwar on Friday taking the death toll to 500 in the massive flooding in Uttarakhand, as they intensified efforts to evacuate 50,000 people still stranded in different inaccessible parts of the hill state.
Nearly 34,000 stranded people were evacuated in operations on a war footing launched by multiple agencies including the Army, IAF and ITBP since the heavy monsoon rains pounded the state a week ago.
The IAF deployed 13 more aircraft for relief and rescue work, taking to 43 the total number of planes in operation. The aircraft including IAF's heavylift Mi-26 helicopters--the world's largest chopper--for transporting fuel and heavy equipment required by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to clear roads closed due to landslide and also set up an airbridge in one affected area to pull out stranded persons.
As the terrible magnitude of nature's fury continued to unfold and survivors spoke of untold miseries, the death toll was expected to rise with Uttarakhand Principal Secretary Rakesh Sharma saying casualty figures can be "shockinglyhigh".
Efforts were also underway to rush food packets amid reports that hundreds of survivors did not get anything to eat for days. "So far, 207 people have lost their lives. But the toll may go up as debris in many areas is yet to be cleared", Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said in Delhi.
"We have evacuated 34,000 people from various parts of Uttarakhand but 50,000 people are still stranded," he said after a review meeting on the situation in Uttarakhand.
In Haridwar, 40 bodies of those killed in the flash floods and incessant rains were found. "40 bodies have been recovered from different points along the Ganga since last evening and taken to the district hospital where each of them is being given a number and an identification tag," Senior Superintendent of Police Haridwar Rajeev Swaroop said.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said IAF has deployed 13 more aircraft taking to 43 the number of aircraft involved in relief and rescue operations Rescuers were focussing on rain-ravaged Kedarnath area where 250 people are stranded before shifting focus to Badrinath where 9,000 people are stuck, officials said.
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