New Delhi, June 26: Even though IAF chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne has said today that air rescue operations would continue despite the copter crash yesterday, the authorities seem to be not taking any chances and putting pace into rescue work on foot.
In fact, the rescue and evacuation operations were delayed in the rain-ravaged Uttarakhand early Wednesday due to rains and dense fog in the mountains. The weather report says that heavy rains are possible in many areas.
A senior official admitted that "after the chopper crash on Tuesday, we are moving with caution to ensure that such incidents do not reoccur. We are waiting for the weather to improve."
While at some places the skies had cleared, fog remained a cause of concern.
With the inclement weather continuing to affect the rescue, army is focussing more on the evacuation on foot. Rescuers have been urging people to walk to safety to the army base camps with the help of the troopers guiding them.
The people, who have now reached the relief and medical camps set up by army, are waiting for the weather to clear so that choppers can begin to fly and they can be airlifted to Dehradun, Haridwar or Rishikesh.
At various helipads, Indian Air Force and army officials maintained that the rescue operations would continue, they admitted that the operations "had taken a brief hit" and added that they were now being "extra cautious and not over zealous".
They are taking weather conditions and warnings more seriously.
As the weather cleared around noon, the mission to rescue more than 7,500 people still stranded on the Badrinath route in Joshimath and Harshil, took off.
Yesterday, due to heavy rains in Dehradun, the Mi-17s with higher passenger capacity were grounded at the Jolly Grant airport while smaller choppers which tried to fly had to return to their bases at Joshimath and Harshil.
Fog prevented rescue sorties around Devprayag, where a cloudburst in Dubh Mamora village left two people dead and three missing and washed away several houses, while bad weather hit chopper missions at Jangalchatti, Guptkashi, and Gauchar.
Army website on rescue updates
The army has launched a website is called suryahopes.in. The website contains the latest information on army's rescue operations and users can get a list of people evacuated at this website.
Apart from latest information on its operations in Uttarakhand, the site also contains a list of updated helpline numbers and links to other state government websites.
Mass funeral hit by weather, bodies posing danger
The mass funeral proposed for the people who died in Kedarnath premises and whose bodies are decomposing there was also aborted yesterday due to the rains.
Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel, undertaking rescue operations there, said the decomposing human and animal corpses are posing a health hazard.
The ITBP raised concerns about decaying corpses. "The corpses are eight to nine days old. They are rotting. It is difficult to operate in that area due to the strong stench," said an ITBP spokesman.
An aid worker meanwhile called the situation in Uttarakhand "a mess" as vast stretches of roads have disappeared and transporting relief to some of the worst-hit areas was near impossible.
"It is a mess right now. It is a complete mess," despaired a spokesperson for ActionAid, which has relief workers in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Pithoragarh districts.
NDMA tells leader not to politicise the tragedy
The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has declared Uttarakhand devastation a "severe natural disaster" and requested leaders not to politicise the issue. It also said it would send a team to locate bodies under the debris.
NDMA vice chairman Shashidhar Reddy said MPs from all states could each contribute Rs.50 lakh from their funds for the relief work.
"Despite doing politics over the calamity, all the leaders and MPs should contribute as they can donate Rs.50 lakh from their funds in a national level disaster,"Reddy said.