The scale of the tragedy that struck Uttarakhand in June was unprecedented and the rescue efforts of the forces were exemplary, Bahuguna said at the 9th foundation day of the National Disaster Management Authority in New Delhi yesterday. The Chief Minister said that the rescue operation taken up in the state was the biggest air rescue operation of its kind where 65 helicopters were pressed into service, according to a government press statement released here today.
Showing exemplary valour, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel evacuated 1.5 lakh people stranded in high altitude and inaccessible areas of the state, despite inclement weather and difficult terrain, he said.
Saluting security force personnel who laid down their lives during the rescue operations, Bahuguna said that the state and the country as a whole will remain grateful to them. An IAF chopper crashed near Gaurikund in Kedar valley on June 25 during rescue operations, killing 19 people on board including NDRF, ITBP and IAF personnel.
Claiming that rehabilitation work is being carried out at fast pace, Bahuguna thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi for their support to the state. Prayers have resumed in all "Char Dhams" and all key routes have been connected, he said. Stating that the calamity had dealt a blow to tourism, the mainstay of the state's economy, he said plans are being worked out to revive the sector.
The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank have come forward to help and talks are in the final stage, he said. He also suggested implementation of landslide abatement programmes in all Himalayan regions, including Uttarakhand, by the Centre to prevent a natural calamity of this scale. Raising the issue of rising river water levels due to the debris deposited in them after floods, he asked the Centre to launch programmes to solve this problem.