Fifteen days after the Uttarakhand disaster, 900 stranded pilgrims and locals in Badrinath were on Sunday left to be evacuated and 3,000 people remained missing, as authorities grappled with the grim task of extricating dead bodies from under heaps of debris and disposing them.
Nearly 1,489 pilgrims were on Sunday taken to safety from Badrinath--874 by air and 615 by road--today, an Uttarakhand government official said, adding only 300 pilgrims and 600 locals remained in the holy town with adequate food and medical care.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said a 200-member team consisting of officials of various departments, including police, health, animal husbandry experts and sanitation, is being sent along with equipment provided by the NDRF to both Kedarnath and Rambada to extricate the bodies from the debris and expedite the process of their disposal.
However, Rains played spoilsport in the National Disaster Response Force's (NDRF) plans to reach Kedarnath town and extricate the dead buried in the rubble and mud after the flash floods and landslides that ravaged the town.
"NDRF team had planned to go to Kedarnath town with heavy equipments to extricate the bodies, but the heavy lift helicopters could not take off with the equipments due to bad weather," M Sashidhar Reddy, Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) told reporters in Delhi.
"Clearing tonnes of debris lying in the affected areas and extricating decaying bodies which may be lying under them is our top most priority at the moment," said DGP Satyavrat Bansal after a review meeting of top officials.
"34 bodies have already been cremated in Kedarnath shrine area and 55 to 60 more which are visible on the ground are yet to be cremated and the process will be taken up on a war footing by a rescue team considering the threat of an epidemic outbreak 15 days after the calamity," he said.
The process of disposal of bodies in Kedarnath Valley is is slow due to frequently changing weather, DIG Sanjay Gunjyal said.
Bahuguna said as per information the state government has received, 3,000 people are still missing.
As the rescue mission neared its end, there was still no clarity over the number of people killed with casualty figures ranging from hundreds to thousands. Close to 1.1 lakh people have been rescued so far, Reddy said.
While the Chief Minister has stated the death toll may cross the 1,000 mark, the state Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal created a flutter yesterday when he said the figure may be more than 10,000.
0ver 18,000 airlifted by IAF in U'khand since June 17
Indian Air Force has airlifted over 18,000 persons and dropped more than 3 lakh kg of relief
material in flood-hit Uttarakhand since June 17 in its biggest ever helicopter operation for rescue and relief in the state.
"IAF has airlifted a total of 18,424 persons, flying a total of 2,137 sorties and dropping/ landing a total of 3,36,930 kgs of relief material and equipment," it said in a statement on Sunday.
In its rescue and relief operations for 'Op Rahat' that were undertaken since morning, a total of 749 persons were airlifted, flying a total of 93 sorties and dropped about 12,000 kgs of relief material and equipment, it said.