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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Toll may cross 1,000, says U’khand CM

New Roads Opened For Rescue As Forces Race To Beat Rain; 22K Still Out Of Reach


Threat Of Epidemic Looms As Bodies Of Victims Start To Rot


New Delhi: 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," VijayBahuguna told reportersin 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,badweather andfreshdestruction of some newly-erected infrastructure impeded rescue with security forces being unable to clear Kedarnath Valley and airlifting only 500 out of Badrinathwhere atleast8,000 arestillstuck. 
    "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 a senior IAF officer. 
    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 masksover their faces with epidemic outbreak looming large. Much of Saturday was spent rebuilding broken roads, bridges in the Badrinath axis and building new helipads at Auli and Gaurikund. 

HORRIFIC SCALE 
1,000 Dead 123 bodies found in Kedarnath temple complex on Saturday 70,000 Rescued so far 22,000 Stranded 8,500 Army men on ground 1-day window for rescue as rain expected on Mon, TuesTIMES VIEW 
    The government argues that the demand to immediately declare the tragedy in Uttarakhand a national calamity is based on the mistaken assumption that funds are being held up because such a categorization has not happened. It may be true that declaring the current situation a national calamity will make no difference to official fund flows, but there is a larger picture the government is missing. When a tragedy is officially declared a national calamity, it also serves a signalling function, both for the government machinery and for the country at large. It helps channelize energies of both officialdom and civil society into dealing with the tragedy. If only for that reason, it needs to be done, and now. 
Bad weather, epidemic fear looms in U'khand 
    However, with infrastructure in place, forces hope to step up rescue work on a war footing on Sunday andtry to evacuate everyone. "We are doubling our strength in Badrinath axis and putting even the administrative staff on duty tomorrow," said an ITBP officer. 
    Despite the difficulties, armed forces and ITBP rescued all500 peoplestrandedin 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 strandedin Yamunotri.Faced with the dual trouble of weather and epidemic, forces have opened new roads on various axes to facilitate rescue by road. 
For the full report, log on to www. timesofindia.com 

An Army man with pilgrims rescued from flood waters on Saturday

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