Guptkashi, June 27: Amid fears of epidemic outbreak, the mass cremation process in Kedarnath, worst-hit in the Uttarakhand flash floods, was expedited, even as air operations to evacuate stranded people from Badrinath was today halted with the weather packing up.
"A total of 18 bodies have been cremated so far in Kedarnath. The next round of cremation will start only after formalities like identification, DNA sample preservation, post mortem of the bodies are completed," DIG Sanjay Gunjyal, under whose supervision the exercise is taking place, told PTI.
A second team of doctors, forensic experts and police personnel has left for Kedarnath to complete the formalities, he said. The rescue operations and the mass cremation process have been affected because of bad weather, the DIG said, adding that the formalities for the cremation of the victims were also taking time.
The cremation exercise had resumed yesterday after it was suspended because of inclement weather. The Health Department has warned people in adjoining areas not to consume river water as it may be highly polluted.
With the air thick with foul smell of decaying bodies in the area adjoining the Kedarnath shrine, the department has expressed apprehensions about spread of various infectious diseases.
"We are now quickly cremating the bodies which have been recovered. But given the scale and nature of the tragedy, there is a likelihood that many bodies could still be lying in open spots, where rescue personnel have not been able to find or reach them," Ravikanth Raman, nodal officer of rescue operations in Guptkashi, said.
Meanwhile, 208 people have so far been evacuated from the Harsil sector but 600 more are still stranded. "We were able to pull out 1,341 people from various sectors. From Badrinath, which is a key focus area, we could only pull out 350 because the weather gave an hour's opportunity, and we made use of that. The Harsil operation is likely to finish today," Air Commodore Rajesh Issar said in Dehradun.
As many as 14 choppers were being kept ready to fly to Badrinath to evacuate pilgrims, another IAF officer said. "The moment the weather clears up, we will resume the operations for Badrinath Dham," he said.