Uttarakhand flood: 6,500 survivors await evacuation, bad weather hits rescue operation

Uttarakhand RainUttarakhand flood: A devotee worships at the bank of flooded Bhagirathi River in Uttarkashi on Monday. PTI

More than a week after it was hit by devastating flash floods and torrential rains, the critical phase of rescue operations in Uttarakhand seems to be over, with the focus now shifting to the evacuation of survivors stranded at temporary relief camps that have been been set up at several locations.

While the massive air effort — the biggest for humanitarian aid by the armed forces — will continue over the next few days despite the bad weather that has hit the region, those coordinating operations say that intense rescue efforts over the past three days have paid off with all survivors being brought to camps that have food, water and medical stocks. An estimated 6,500 people are now at these camps and are being airlifted or evacuated as the weather permits.

"Four days ago, it was a very gloomy picture. That was the time we were getting into the interiors and finding utter devastation. We had no idea how many had survived or died and where all the survivors were. Today, we have been able to pull out all the stranded people and have brought them to our temporary camps from where they are being evacuated in a coordinated manner," Lt Gen N S Bawa, General Officer Commanding, Uttar Bharat Area, who has been coordinating rescue and relief operations, told The Indian Express.

Though air operations in most sectors except the Dharashu-Harsil axis were affected due to the bad weather on Monday, the officer said the flights would continue to either drop supplies or evacuate the estimated 6,500 persons who are currently stranded at the various relief camps.

"Today there is a lot of confidence that the situation has been brought well under control. However, there are still more that 2,000 people stuck between Harsil and Uttarkashi and approximately 4,500 at Badrinath," said Lt Gen Bawa, adding that over 1,000 people are likely to be evacuated from Badrinath to Joshimath by Monday evening, a large majority of them on foot, after the Army constructed temporary bridges and ropeways across cut-off areas. "We are encouraging all able-bodied people to come by foot so that the air operations are directed only towards the sick and the elderly. Our teams are accompanying survivors across the difficult terrain," said Lt Gen Bawa.

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