The Himalayan tragedy continued to unfold on Thursday with fears that thousands of pilgrims staying in 90 rest houses may have been washed away in flash floods even as rescue operations were stepped up with additional IAF choppers pressed into service to evacuate stranded people in Kedarnath area.
In its report to the Union Home Ministry, the State Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre has said that casualties in the affected areas may run into thousands with about 90 'dharamashalas' (rest houses for pilgrims) swept away in the flash floods.However, the toll has been kept officially at 150.
With the weather clearing up, the focus was on rescue operations both in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh where two IAF and one state chopper was making sorties to rescue 600 stranded tourists.
In Uttarakhand, over 15,000 people stranded in Kedarnath and Govindghat on way to Hemkund Sahib have been evacuated so far to Joshimath relief camps through air and road routes, IG police R S Meena told PTI.
"Apart from the 12 helicopters already engaged in rescue operations in affected areas, eight more have been roped in for the purpose to step up the process," Meena said.
Rescue efforts are being concentrated as of now on Kedarnath shrine and its adjoining areas in Rudraprayag district which has been the worst hit with about 90 dharamshalas in the temple area, where pilgrims were staying having been swept away by the flood waters, he said.
Two helicopters have flown from Dehradun to evacuate stranded people.The Army has also deployed its mountain rescue teams to evacuate the pilgrims. Scores of villages remain under water and cannot be tracked. Hence there is uncertainty about the casualties caused, he said, adding the "devastation is massive".
Rescue efforts also picked up in rain-battered tribal Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh with two IAF and one state chopper making sorties to rescue 600 tourists and others stranded in remote areas.
The sorties started at 6.30 AM in the morning and people stranded at various places for past five days are being dropped at Rampur, official sources said.
In all, 278 people were evacuated till yesterday evening and about 600 tourist and other people were still stranded at various places.
In Uttar Pradesh, the water levels in the rivers Ganga,Yamuna, Sharda, Ghaghra, Rapti and Kuanon continued to rise at several places.
The Mavi Satpudha Dam breached on the left bank of the Yamuna river in Shamli district yesterday and efforts were on to plug it with the help of locals, officials said.
Some areas in Saharanpur city were still submerged, while rail traffic on the Saharanpur-Ambala route was disrupted due to waterlogging.
In Bijnore, the water level of the tributaries of the Ganga was rising.
Relief and rescue operations continued on a war footing and people were being shifted to safer places in Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich and Farrukhabad districts, officials said.
However, the weather remained dry in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh with no report of fresh rainfall in the region.
The flow of water through Hathni Kund barrage over Yamuna river near Yamunanagar in Haryana has also decreased as against the unprecedented 8.06 lakh cusecs water discharge over the weekend.
Revenue department officials of Haryana are conducting a survey to ascertain the damage caused to crops due to heavy rains last week in districts of Yamunanagar, Karnal and Panipat recently.