New Delhi, June 19: The Indian Army has launched 'Operation Surya Hope' today to rescue thousands stranded in Kedarnath, Badrinath and other places in Uttarakhand. It has also deployed 10 Specialist Mountaineering teams in the area to trace people and guide them to safe places.
Meanwhile, the government on Wednesday tried to calm fears and assure people that not all those who are stranded in Uttarakhand after heavy rains and landslides face danger. Some are in their homes and hotels and there is no shortage of food, informed Minister of State for Home RPN Singh.
He also said that about 2000 to 3000 people have already been evacuated and 22 helicopters have been pressed into action to help with the rescue operations. Till late afternoon the copters had carried out 120 sorties on the rescue mission.
His senior Sushilkumar Shinde said that IAF helicopters have been deployed to evacuate stranded people from Gaurikund while a control centre has been established in Badrinath.
"Fourteen teams comprising 540 persons of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in Uttarakhand. 62,790 people are stranded in Uttarakhand. 5,000 people have been rescued by the Army," Shinde said.
With the weather clearing in most places, operations commenced in full swing to rescue the stranded, especially in Badrinath shrine where 12,000 pilgrims are still stuck. While 1,500 pilgrims and locals were rescued from in Chamoli district, 1,200 stranded tourists were evacuated in Rudraprayag.
Officials said that evacuating people to safer places was their priority as recovery of bodies can be taken up later.
Rescue operations were also on in rain-ravaged tribal Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh for the second day today and one state and two IAF choppers were evacuating stranded people at various points in Kinnaur district and adjoining Kaza area of Spiti.
"The exact number of people stranded at various places is not known, but the priority is to evacuate tourists and the aged and ailing persons first," HP Principal Secretary (Home), Tarun Sridhar said. ITBP DG Ajay Chadha said that it was difficult to give exact figures of those rescued as a number of agencies were involved in the relief efforts.
Punjab govt hires copters
With hundreds of pilgrims from Punjab stranded near the Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib in Uttarakhand, the Punjab government has hired a private helicopter to airlift them.
The helicopter will be pressed into service in coordination with authorities in Uttarakhand to rescue the stuck pilgrims from Punjab.
A four-member team of senior Punjab government officials has already left for Dehradun to monitor the rescue operation and ensure the safe return of the Sikh pilgrims.
Hundreds of pilgrims from Punjab have been stranded in the area around the Sikh shrine following cloudburst, heavy rain and landslides there.