Air rescue operations resumed on Thursday to pull out stranded people but they had to be halted for Badrinath as the weather turned bad, even as decaying bodies were being cremated swiftly in worst-hit Kedarnath Valley amid fears of an epidemic outbreak.
Priests carried out the last rites of the victims, which had resumed on Wednesday after they were suspended because of inclement weather.
The Health Department has warned people in adjoining areas not to consume river water as it may be highly polluted. With the air thick with foul smell of decaying bodies in the area adjoining the Kedarnath shrine, the department has expressed apprehensions about spread of various infectious diseases.
"We are now quickly cremating the bodies which have been recovered. But given the scale and nature of the tragedy, there is a likelihood that many bodies could still be lying in open spots, where rescue personnel have not been able to find or reach them," Ravikanth Raman, nodal officer of rescue operations in Guptkashi, said.
Meanwhile, 208 people have so far been evacuated from the Harsil sector but 600 more are still stranded. "We were able to pull out 1,341 people from various sectors.
From Badrinath, which is a key focus area, we could only pull out 350 because the weather gave an hour's opportunity, and we made use of that.
The Harsil operation islikely to finish today," Air Commodore Rajesh Issar said in Dehradun. Around 14 choppers are ready to fly to Badrinath to evacuate pilgrims, another IAF officer said.
"The moment the weather clears up, we will resume the operations for Badrinath Dham," he said.
Rescue operations were hampered at Sahastradhara helipad in Dehradun this morning due to rains, but resumed as the weather cleared up later, with three choppers flying to the affected areas.
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