EVENT DATE: Dec 31, 2013
Every dollar can help us feed upto 5 people. This is an exclusive initiative by Feed India Non-Profit Organization.
As daredevil pilots meandered their craft through unpredictable weather and soldiers slithered down wobbly choppers to help the stranded, hungry and sick people, rain and flood-ravaged Uttarakhand's chief minister finally conceded on Saturday that fatalities from the disaster could cross 1,000.
"The death toll is likely to be around 1,000," Vijay Bahuguna told reporters in Dehradun as rescuers stared at gloomy skies and more rain in the days ahead, making the task of ferrying to safety the 22,000 pilgrims and villagers who still remain out of reach more daunting.
Officials said the threat of fresh rain and epidemic breakout loomed large. In fact, on Saturday, bad weather and fresh destruction of some newly-erected infrastructure impeded rescue with security forces being unable to clear Kedarnath Valley and airlifting only 500 out of Badrinath where at least 8,000 are still stuck.
"According to the forecast with us, rain is likely on Monday and Tuesday. Even 3-4 cm of rain may hamper our work. Our choppers cannot navigate through the clouds in the valley," said Air Marshal S B Deo, chief of air operations.
Sunday's operation is going to be especially difficult in Kedarnath valley, where several hundred bodies strewn over 30 sq km have started stinking due to decay. Forces are already functioning with masks over their faces with epidemic outbreak looming large.
Much of Saturday was spent reestablishing broken roads and bridges in the Badrinath axis and building new helipads at Auli and Gaurikund. However, with infrastructure in place, forces hope to step up rescue work on a war footing on Sunday and try to evacuate everyone. "We are doubling our strength in Badrinath axis and putting even the administrative staff on duty tomorrow," said an ITBP officer overseeing rescue work.
Despite the difficulties, armed forces and ITBP rescued all 500 people stranded in and around Gangotri while 350 people of 1,000 stranded in Kedarnath valley around Rambada and Junglechetti were airlifted on Saturday. Forces also evacuated 1,550 people from Pandukeshwar while Ghjagaria on the Hemkunt axis was cleared of almost all pilgrims. A total of 61 helicopters were pressed into action.
However, only 450 people could be airlifted out of main Badrinath and 700 are still stranded in Yamunotri. "Though there was no rain, fog interrupted air operations. The Lambagad bridge we had built in the Badrinath axis was swept away by Alaknanda on Friday night. We could not evacuate anyone from main Badrinath on foot. We had make another bridge today," said an ITBP official.
To tide over the bridge collapse Army had to make a heli-bridge airlifting people from one bank of the river to another.