New Delhi, June 18: Over 70,000 tourists and pilgrims are stranded at various locations due to floods and landslides in Uttarakhand. The death toll has reached 60 in the state. The good news is that the water level of Bhagirathi in Uttarkashi and Ganga in Rishikesh had begun to recede and rains may reduce in next three days.
Meanwhile, the holy temple town of Kedarnath was the worst hit by floods and thousands of tourists were stranded in adverse weather conditions. Three ITBP personnel and two policemen were killed during a rescue operation in Kedarnath.
Uttarkashi, which is transit point for pilgrimage to Kedarnath and Badrinath was also badly hit. The town witness another bridge over river Bhagirathi being washed away. Nearly 200 camps have been set up for those stranded.
Rudraprayag was the worst-hit, where 20 people perished and 73 buildings, including 40 hotels along the banks of the Alaknanda, were swept away by the waters of the river.
About 70,000 pilgrims, bound for Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, are stranded in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts with the famous char dham yatra still suspended due to massive damage to the road network.
About 27,040 devotees are stranded in Chamoli, 25,000 in Rudraprayag and 9,850 in Uttarkashi, disaster management authorities said.
More than a dozen helicopters have been deployed in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh for relief and rescue operations in the monsoon-ravaged two hill states and all stranded people are expected to be evacuated soon, informed Union Home Secretary R K Singh, this evening.
He said food, medicines and blankets were air-dropped in remote areas of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh for the flood-affected people.
"We have provided seven helicopters to Uttarakhand. The state government has also hired four private helicopters. We are providing helicopters to Himachal Pradesh. Hopefully, all stranded people will be evacuated today," Singh said.
Due to bad weather, the helicopters started operating only this morning. 50 pilgrims have been rescued from Kedarnath and brought to Gupt Kashi. Further sorties are in progress to evacuate the stranded.
Highways linking Delhi and Haridwar, Rishikesh and Yamunotri and Gangotri and the Badrinath National Highway are blocked for now. There are about 20 roadblocks leading to Badrinath due to landslides and flash floods.
To get details of tourist movement and rescue operations contact Uttarakhand Disaster Control Room: 0135-2710334, 0135-2710335, 0135-2710233.
Why so many pilgrims caught in the hills?
The monsoon generally hits north India by June end. But the movement of clouds was such that the entire country was covered with monsoon by June 16, a good month ahead of its schedule date for the first time since 1961.
The rains caught everyone napping and brought about miseries to thousand of pilgrims, who would have normally finished their pilgrimage by month-end.
Meanwhile, intensity of rains will come down in the next 3-4 days, and bring respite to the region.