Uttarakhand flood: Air operations near end, Harsil fully evacuated of pilgrims

Written by VARINDER BHATIA | Gauchar | Updated: Jun 28 2013, 16:21pm hrs
Air operations to rescue people stranded after the flash-floods in Uttarakhand were drawing to an end Thursday, with the armed forces evacuating the Harsil sector of all pilgrims and moving nearly 900 people stranded in Badrinath by foot after laying a makeshift path to Joshimath town.

Although more than 2,500 people are still estimated to be stuck in Badrinath, officers involved in relief operations believe that a bulk of the rescue work is over and two days of good weather would allow them to fully evacuate all those stranded in flood-hit areas of the state.

Besides the air evacuations, nearly 900 able-bodied pilgrims who had been stranded in Badrinath have started walking to Joshimath which is connected by road and are expected to reach late Thursday. They were accompanied on the 14-km walk by Central Army Commander Lt Gen Anil Chait.

Army officers handling the operations said that work in the Kedarnath and Harsil sectors is almost over and the areas are not likely to see rescue operations from Friday. Army Chief General Bikram Singh is visiting the state Friday and will meet soldiers involved in the rescue and relief operations.

"The Harsil sector is absolutely clear now. There are no more stranded people to be evacuated from that area. Even Kedarnath sector is all clear now, but we still went for a final search operation today. However, due to bad weather we had to cut it short and return. we will conduct another search operation in Kedarnath tomorrow morning," Brig K B Chand told The Indian Express.

Army officers said they expect the entire effort in the Gauchar sector to be over in another 48 hours if the weather remains clear. "Because of our men's assistance, many people have started walking to Joshimath from Badrinath. From there, they can board vehicles and reach Gauchar for their onward journeys. We are expecti0ng that the operation in this sector should get over in another two days," Chand added.

Officers said that while the Harsil sector has been fully cleared of pilgrims and tourists, an estimated 150 locals who have also expressed a desire to move out will be brought down at the earliest. The Air Force airlifted a total 628 people from Harsil Thursday and 706 from Badrinath. Air operations will continue on Friday and could be over by Sunday if the weather holds, officials said.