In a mammoth multi-agency operation by defence forces in peacetime, over 10,000 people stranded in various upper reaches of Uttarakhand were rescued Saturday while 22,000 still remain to be pulled out.
The personnel of Army, Air Force, ITBP, BRO and NDRF raced against time as the weather office predicted fresh rains on Monday and Tuesday. A total of 70,000 persons have been evacuated till date.
Fresh sets of satellite phones were sent to the rain-ravaged state to allow people communicate with their families and to enable the personnel of various agencies communicate with each other.
While 25 satellite phones were provided to ITBP, IAF, BRO and NDRF, 50 more sets are expected to reach Delhi from Congo Saturday night, ITBP's DIG (Operations) Austin Eapen said.
According to the latest figures provided by the state government to the National Crisis Management Committee at 4.00 pm Saturday, 557 people have died in the unfolding tragedy, while 412 have been injured. "These figures are tentative...its is an ongoing operation," Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told reporters here.
Responding to suggestions about lack of coordination between agencies, he said while there could be operational difficulties, there is no lack of coordination. "The coordination is harmonious and seamless," he said.
He agreed that there could be problems in distributing food to the needy given the size and nature of the calamity.
In Kedarnath, the NDRF personnel have identified 83 bodies which have been handed over to the local police.
"The weather today was like yesterday. It was not as good as we expected...it is likely to stabilise. But we expect rains on Monday and Tuesday. We expect 3 to 4 cm of rain," Air Marshal S B Deo, IAF's chief of Air Operrations said.
Army said in case rains hamper air operations, it was planning to bring as many people s possible by foot tracks.
They are using light bridges to make way for light vehicles such as Sumo and Innova to retrieve those stranded.
Though the Air Force lost three hours this morning due to bad weather, it carried out 300 sorties till this afternoon and airlifted 2,000 persons.
One of IAF's latest acquisition C-130 transport aircraft was utilised to evacuate more than 100 persons. In all, 150 sorties were undertaken today. MI-17 V-5 with advanced radars and autopilot were used to penetrate the valley. They also act as guide to other choppers to follow.
Railways are moving people and relief supplies free of charge. Tewari said no one is waiting at station at Haridwar and all have been sent to their respective destinations.
ITBP evacuated 4,000 persons today. The point of concern for rescuers is Jungle Chetti where about 400-500 people are still present. Army has already reached Jungle Chetti from where Special Forces have created foot tracks to enable able-bodied people to be moved to safer areas.
Tewari said 70-80 people are left in Kedarnath and they could be pulled out by Sunday. Gagaria has been evacuated and no one has been left there.
Of the 287 communication towers that were dysfunctional, 167 have been restored and the remaining will be functional by Sunday, the minister said.
The Oil Ministry is focussing on providing aviation fuel at Gauchar. IAF needs 55 kilo litre every day which is being arranged. So far 110 kilo litres of aviation fuel has been delivered for the helicopter involved in rescue operations.