by Ayeshea Perera Jun 29, 2013 20:30 IST
8.45pm: IAF completes evacuation from Harsil
New Delhi: Entering the last phase of relief operations in flood-hit Uttarakhand, the Indian Air Force today said it has completed the evacuation of stranded pilgrims in Harsil using 26 of its aircraft there.
"The IAF airlifted the last 12 pilgrims from Harsil. Harsil is completely evacuated," IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Gerard Galway said in New Delhi.
He said 842 pilgrims were airlifted by the force from Badrinath sector and the IAF will continue its operations in the sector for two more days.
Over 2,500 pilgrims were stranded in Harsil and Badrinath till yesterday and they are being evacuated by the Army and the IAF using both aerial and land routes.
The IAF has deployed a total of 26 aircraft for the operations.
The IAF has been involved in the operations since 17 June and has flown around 1,800 sorties airlifting more than 15,000 people in the process.
The Army is also continuing its efforts there and had deployed around 8,000 troops along with over 4,000 personnel under the Border Roads Organisation.
The Army had also deployed 13 of its choppers in the relief missions and has evacuated over 30,000 people from there.
8.30pm: Death toll around 900, says Shinde
Mumbai: The death toll in flash floods and landslides that ravaged Uttarakhand is around 900 so far, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said in Mumbai today.
"So far, 1.05 lakh persons have been rescued," Shinde said.
"So far, 52 bodies have been cremated. We will be carrying out combing operations in the next two to four days with the help of military and paramilitary forces," he said.
The weather at present was not good, the minister who was in Mumbai on a personal visit, said.
The Centre would extend all possible help to Uttarakhand, Shinde said.
6.30pm IAF rescues 590 on Saturday
According to CNN-IBN, the Indian Air Force today rescued 590 pilgrims from Badrinath using 26 choppers. The force has also started de-induction of aircraft from the mission as rescue operations start to wind up.
5.30pm Death toll may cross 10,000, says Uttarakhand Speaker
Almora: The number of people killed in cloudbursts and flash floods in Uttarakhand recently may cross 10,000 mark, state Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal said today.
"Earlier when I returned from a tour of Garhwal region I believed the casualty figure could be 4000 to 5000. But now as per my information and bodies being seen by the people, I can say the figure can cross the 10,000 mark," Kunjwal told told reporters in Almora.
Though refusing to quantify casualties even 14 days after the tragedy, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has been saying it is feared over 1,000 people might have been killed in the natural calamity.
According to him, the exact number of people killed will be known only after the removal of debris.
Kunjwal said arrangements should be made immediately by the government to dispose of the bodies in view of the threat of an epidemic.
3:00 pm Rescue operations on, 200 evacuated from Badrinath
After an initial delay due to unfavourable weather conditions, rescue work in Badrinath area of flood-hit Uttarakhand resumed today, and nearly 200 pilgrims have so far been evacuated from the shrine.
The operation, which is in its last leg and focuses largely on Badrinath, where nearly 1,400 people were reported to be stuck, is likely to be completed by this evening if the weather permits
Helicopters started flying sorties to evacuate the pilgrims from the area.
Efforts are also being made on war-footing to ensure supply of essential relief material to over 600 villages in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, which are cut off after the floods. 2,379 metric tonnes of wheat and 2,875 metric tonnes of rice has so far been dispatched to these villages. The frequently changing weather is hampering work as the relief material can be supplied only by air. However, all steps are being taken to ensure enough supply of foodgrains, kerosene and LPG to flood-hit villages.
2:00 pm No flood threat, rise in water level due to melting of glaciers: MeT
The MeT department has sent a word of assurance, and said the rise in water level is mainly due to melting of glaciers with the sun showing up, and there is no flood threat. Uttarakhand MeT department Director Anand Sharma said the snow in upper reaches was melting with the sun coming out, and this was increasing water level in rivers.
Rains halt rescue operations in Kedarnath
1:00 pm: Doordarshan is reporting that rains have once again halted rescue operations in Kedarnath. Adding to it, the water level in Bhagirathi river is rising continuously, because of which as many as 70 families residing along the river banks had to be taken to safer places.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who is scheduled to undertake a tour of Uttarkashi, could not go and is still in Dehradun waiting for the weather to clear.
The rescue operations are coming to an end and the focus is now on around 1,400 pilgrims reported to be stranded in Badrinath. Choppers have been flown to the Himalayan shrine to evacuate the remaining pilgrims.
With fewer pilgrims stranded in Badrinath now, the focus is on evacuating them as early as possible and supplying relief material to the affected villages in the worst-hit Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, officials told PTI.
Weather improves in Joshimath, rescue ops start
11: 22 am A team of experts from Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will visit the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand to assess the quantum of damage caused by the flood fury and restoration required for the shrine.
A team of five experts from Dehradun and Delhi will be the part of the exercise for the revered temple which bore the brunt of floods and landslides triggered by the deluge in the hill state on June 16.The state government had sought help from the ASI to assess the damage caused to the shrine. Efforts are on to drop the team by air by tomorrow, sources said.
As of now, Kedarnath temple is not a protected site under the ASI. The team is expected to suggest restoration exercise needed for the temple and the surrounding areas, a senior official told PTI.
10:23 am Weather improves in Joshimath, rescue ops start
Weather conditions in Joshimath improved on Saturday morning, prompting chopper rescue operations to start and the government hopes to complete all evacuations by the end of the day. But the main challenge now is the evacuation of those 2000 people who are still stranded in the upper reaches of the state.
Joshimath is a city and a municipal board in Chamoli District in Uttarakhand.
Rescue ops at final stage but 2,000 people still stranded
8:30 am Rescue operations in Uttarakhand have reached the last leg but 2000 people are still stranded in the upper reaches of the state.The government hopes to finish the evacuation process by the end of the day. The defence forces have deployed around 50 helicopters and over 8,000 troops in flood-hit Uttarakhand.
According to CNN IBN, pilgrims in Badrinath are being rescued by a newly constructed foot track in Govindghat valley. Meanwhile, the Jindal Group has sent three helicopters for rescue operations in Joshimath but the weather continues to remain an obstacle. The Harshil sector, on the other hand, has been totally evacuated.
"The road from Joshimath to Govindghat has also been restored and pilgrims are being evacuated on foot. In Kedarnath, mass cremation of bodies is still continuing," the CNN IBN report said.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who was on a second visit to Dehradun since the disaster struck the state, said all out efforts will be made in the multi-agency operations to locate those who are still trapped in the debris and the missing.
However, food supplies are running out in several villages that are completely cut off.
Authorities are also concerned about the rising levels of the Bhagirathi river.
State government officials said that with the weather improving, 17 helicopters took off to rescue an estimated 1,237 people stuck at different places in the hill state, with the Harshil sector totally cleared of pilgrims. About 3,000 people are still reported missing, they said.
The focus now is on Badrinath Dham area, where majority of the pilgrims are stranded.
End of updates from 27 June
4: 15 pm: National Disaster Management Authority says no epidemic yet
The National Disaster Management Authority has said that the relief machinery is working towards restoring normalcy in Uttarakhand but it is a slow process.
"Out of 20,000 villagers in Uttarakhand, around 2,300 villagers have been affected. 1600 have been rescued," Shashidhar Reddy of the NDMA told reporters
Communication to most places has been established, he said, adding that they were trying to provide food and fodder for cattle to local villages.
The Home minister has asked Air Force to keep additional choppers to supply essential commodities to remote areas, Reddy said.
He also said that despite fears there was no outbreak of disease in the state and they are prepared to deal with any scenario.
"There is no report of epidemic in Uttarakhand as of now. Health ministry has kept 50 doctors on standby who will go to Uttarakhand to assess medical needs," he said.
2.26 pm: Pilots showed exemplary experitse says Pawan Hans chopper company
The company that owns the chopper which made a crash landing in Harsil has issued a statement, praising the 'exemplary' skills of the pilots in handling the bad weather conditions.
In its statement Pawan Hans said that the tail portion of the chopper had been damaged, but that the pilot and crew had suffered no injuries.
"Pilots have handled the adverse weather conditions with an exemplary manner showing extreme level of expertise in handling the situation at high altitude", it said.
The company added that it had deployed four helicopters via Dehradun for evacuation, adding that it has played a vital role in evacuating stranded devotees and passengers from the severely flood affected areas of Uttarakhand, viz. Kedarnath, Guptkashi, Uttarkashi, Gauchar, etc since 16 June 2013.
1.17 pm: Tourism Ministry announces Rs 195 crore for reconstruction of Char Dham pilgrimage
A Rs 195 crore-package has been announced by the government for the reconstruction of the 'Char Dham' pilgrimage circuit, which was badly affected by the Uttarakhand rain disaster.
Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi said the fund will be spent for renovation and reconstruction of the sacred pilgrimage sites of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, and its surrounding areas and the roads connecting it.
Chiranjeevi told reporters that the Uttarakhand government will utilise the fund according to its requirements.
12.45 pm: Guard of honour for chopper crash victims
The 20 personnel who died in the chopper crash in Gaurikund have received a guard of honour. Army chief Bikram Singh, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde were among the dignitaries present to honour the victims.
12.15 pm: Chopper crash lands in Harsil, no casualties reported
News has just come in that a rescue chopper has crash landed in Harsil. However everyone aboard is believed to be safe, CNN-IBN reported. More details were not immediately available.
The news comes even as a guard of honour was awarded to the 20 rescue troops who died in a chopper crash while returning from a rescue sortie in Kedarnath.
12.11 pm: 'I have seen many disasters', says Shinde
Saying that he had seen 'many disasters' in Uttarakhand, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde praised rescue officials who he said have shown excellent coordination in rescue measures despite bad weather. "If weather permits then we will deploy additional helicopters in order to complete evacuations", he said.
Speaking to the media Shinde added, "So far our focus has been rescuing the living. Now we will have to focus on removing bodies from debris and preventing outbreaks. The locals have also been badly affected by the floods. The Chief Secretary was told to list all requirements of the state".
He added that air force helicopters will remain in state to aid relief efforts for a further 15 days.
11:30 am: Final farewell for rescuers who died in MI17 chopper crash
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is in Dehradun and will join the Army chief and others in carrying out a guard of honour for the rescuers who died in the MI17 helicopter crash in Uttarakhand.
Here's an image of the bodies that were brought back to Dehradun today:
Coffins of military and paramilitary officials who died in rescue ops in Uttarakhand pic.twitter.com/aMReNMMxtz
— ANI (@ANI_news) June 28, 2013
The Home Minister also held a meeting with state authorities and other rescue agencies involved in the rescue process where he reviewed arrangements.
11:00 am: Authorities make final push to complete evacuations today
With the weather improving, the rescue operations in Uttarakhand today picked up pace, with 17 choppers being flown to evacuate people still stranded at various locations.
Mass cremation of bodies in Kedarnath, the worst-affected in flood fury, was on, as authorities were racing against time to minimise risks of epidemic outbreak.
As the sun shone bright this morning, helicopters took off to rescue an estimated 1,237 people now stuck at different places in the hill state, with the Harshil sector totally
cleared of pilgrims. About 3,000 people are still reported missing, officials said.
The focus now is on Badrinath Dham area, where majority of the pilgrims are now stranded, they said. (PTI)
10:00 am : Expert suggests more green laws
Following the floods being blamed on indiscriminate constructions, an expert has suggested more environmental laws.
“There should be guidelines, backed by law, to ensure that buildings are situated 100 metres away from the river bank,” Ravi Chopra, director of the Dehradun-based People’s Science Institute, and member (Expert), National Ganga River Basin Authority, told IANS in a telephone interview.
In Uttarakhand, including the temple town of Kedarnath, hundreds of houses constructed on river banks were washed away or destroyed in the floods.
Guidelines were also needed to regulate the traffic of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year.
“Some years ago there was concern over the melting of the glaciers at Gangotri-Gaumukh. The government then regulated the number of pilgrims to 150 a day. If they can do this kind of thing there, then why not at other pilgrimage spots,” Chopra asked.
The incessant rains that hit Uttarakhand over three days from June 14, leading to flash floods and cloudbursts, have led to hundreds of deaths, while many more are missing, especially at Kedarnath. There were thousands of pilgrims in Kedarnath when the tragedy struck.
Over 70,000 stranded people, including pilgrims and tourists, have been rescued by the armed forces, the paramilitary and other officials.
Tourism brings in Rs.2,500 crore to Uttarakhand’s economy, which Chopra said, is “three times the size of its planned development fund”.
“Clearly, we have to strike a balance somewhere,” he maintained.
He said there were suggestions to tag each pilgrim going to Kedarnath in future so they could be traced by GPS. “This is a good idea”, said Chopra, adding it would help trace pilgrims in the aftermath of a rain-flood tragedy. But the need was to minimise occurrences of such natural disasters, which could be done by paying heed to the ecology of the area.(IANS)
9:00 am: Army chief says 2500 still to be evacuated from Badrinath
Army Chief Bikram Singh is in Gaucher today and had words of praise for the jawans who had worked tirelessly to rescue the stranded locals.
He also said there were 2500 people who remained to be rescue from Badrinath but it couldn't be specified by when it would be completed on account of bad weather.
"The conditions at Badrinath are ok and people are quite comfortable. The time for the evacuations cannot be specified since it is dependent on weather," Singh said
He pointed out that all the rescue operations the army was participating in was to aid the civil administration.
"What is to be appreciated is that all agencies in unison worked together for saving lives," Singh said.
8.44 am: Rescue operations likely to end today
With the NDR, ITBP and IAF working over time to rescue the pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand, sources have told CNN-IBN that the rescue operations might be concluded today. Last reported, around 1,800 people were left to be rescued from the various parts of the Uttarakhand valley. CNN IBN reports:
The Uttarakhand government has said that 3,000 people are still missing in the state even as rescue operations are expected to wind up in some sectors on Friday. The rescue operations will continue in Badrinath, say sources. There are contradicting figures of those missing though as the NDMA says 344 people are missing and that close to 1,800 people are stranded.
According to the channel, the focus of the rescue operations have been shifted to helping the locals affected by the tragedy as most visitors have been transported to safer places.
End of updates from 27 June
9.30 pm: 20 bravehearts killed in chopper crash to get guard of honour
Twenty bravehearts, who died in Tuesday’s chopper crash while rescuing stranded people in flood-ravaged areas of Uttarakhand, will be given a ‘guard of honour’– a ceremonial mark of respect– by the government tomorrow in Dehradun.
“20 people belonging to National Disaster Response Force (nine), Indo Tibetan Border Police (six) and five from Indian Air Force will be a given guard of honour tomorrow at 12.30 pm in Dehradun,” Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) M Shashidhar Reddy told reporters here.
Reddy said he would be accompanying Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to Dehradun to pay homage to these brave personnel who laid down their lives in the service of the nation.
A sophisticated Mi-17V5 helicopter, belonging to IAF, had crashed in bad weather during a rescue mission in the flood-ravaged hill state. Bodies of all 20 personnel, on board the ill-fated chopper, have been recovered.
He said so far over one lakh people have been evacuated from different areas of the state.
“As many as 1,495 people have been evacuated till 2 pm today both by air and by road. A total of 1,04,095 people have been evacuated so far since the disaster struck,” Reddy said.
He said that 560 people have died in the disaster, 476 have been injured and about 344 people are still missing. A total of 2,232 houses, 154 bridges and 320 roads have been damaged due to the disaster.
Reddy’s figures are lower to official estimates of 822 people having lost their lives following the natural disaster in the hill state.
Reddy hoped that the rescue operation would be completed by tomorrow.
9.14 pm: Over 1 lakh rescued, 1,800 still stranded
Persistent efforts over the past more than 10 days have succeeded in the evacuation of more than 100,000 people, including locals, from the rain and flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand as authorities cremated more bodies in Kedarnath Thursday. Around 1,800 people are still stranded in the state.
With 12 days elapsing since the flood-rain tragedy hit the state, a clearer picture of the massive losses has began to emerge. Over 1,500 roads have been swept away, while around 2,000 houses and 154 bridges have been damaged.
The bodies of 18 personnel — from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) — who were among the 20 killed in Tuesday’s chopper crash were also recovered.
Ten of the bodies were taken to Gauchar, which the IAF is using as an air base for rescue operations.
An ITBP officer said some of the bodies were so badly burnt that it was difficult to identify them.
The Mi-17 helicopter was carrying 20 personnel including five from the IAF, six from the ITBP and nine from the NDRF when it crashed Tuesday near Gaurikund while on a rescue mission.
NDMA vice chairman M. Shashidhar Reddy said : “Approximately 1,829 people are still stranded all over Uttarakhand and we are hopeful that the rescue operation would be over by Friday.”
The National Disaster Management Authority, an autonomous body to coordinate disaster preparedness, said 104,095 people had been evacuated from the state till Thursday.
Reddy said 560 people have died, 463 have been injured and 344 missing in the floods.
“Around 2,000 houses were damaged as well as 154 bridges,” he told reporters.
Reddy also said that several roads, which had been closed due to the rescue operations, have now been opened. The roads from Uttarkashi to Gangotrri, Joshimath to Badrinath and a few roads going towards Rudryaprayag are still closed due to damage in landslides and repair work was on.
He said that 1,520 roads were damaged all over the state.
After 300 bodies were cremated together on Wednesday, another batch of bodies was cremated Thursday.
Reddy said DNA samples of all the bodies have been taken. He did not have the number of bodies cremated.
With many bodies still buried under the debris, NDRF teams have been asked to assist the local administration to recover the bodies, Reddy said.
The union health ministry has stated that no disease outbreak has been reported from any part of Uttarakhand.
Three public health teams have been posted to Uttarakhand and eight additional teams have been kept on standby, a senior health ministry official said.
Though there were some diarrhoea cases in Haridwar, Uttarkashi, and Rudraprayag, no outbreak of water-borne, food-borne, air-borne or direct contact diseases have been reported from the affected areas yet, the official said.
A three-member high-level committee from the health ministry is in Dehradun to review the public health situation with the state health authorities, while a specialist from National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme has been placed with the state government for providing assistance.
The Indian Red Cross Society has also deployed a two-member team to Uttarkashi and another team to Pithoragarh. A high-level team also visited the state for assessment and coordinating relief work with the state Red Cross unit.
The Red Cross has provided seven truckloads of relief material that includes tents, family packs, kitchen sets, blankets and lanterns.
The health ministry has also provided 1,100 bags for carrying dead bodies, which has been arranged through the Red Cross. An additional 500 bags has also been procured.
Reddy said a guard of honour would be accorded Friday to the chopper crash victims in Dehradun. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Reddy would be going to Dehradun Friday.
7.15pm GOC-in-C, Central Command, Lt Gen A Chait today trekked from Badrinath-Hanuman Chhatti to Govindghat to give out message to the people that they should not fear trekking this distance. And if they are stuck in Badrinath, they should try the road route. (update from Smita Sharma, IBN7)
6.20 pm: Ten bodies swept away in Uttarakhand recovered in UP
Ten bodies swept away in the Uttarakhand flash floods were recovered from different rivers in Uttar Pradesh.
Six bodies were recovered from Ganga river in Allahabad, two bodies each were recovered from rivers in Muzaffarnagar and Hapur in past 24 hours, home department here said. The total of 26 bodies have so far been recovered from various rivers in Uttar Pradesh.
There are 762 persons missing from the state as per the information received in the control room set up by Relief Commissioner Office.
4.15 pm: Hopeful that operations will end tomorrow, says NDMA
In its daily briefing, the NDMA has said that the number of dead in Uttarakhand remains unchanged at 516, adding that armed forces had evacuated 1829 people as of 2pm today, taking the total number of evacuated people 104095 to date.
Vice Chairman of the NDMA Shashidar Reddy who was making the briefing, added that officials were hopeful of completing relief operations by Friday.
""Tomorrow we will take up compensation issues with MHA so that families of victims will get help", he added.
Reddy added that the main issue now would be the relocation of stranded pilgrims. He said that they would be given free stay at Uttarakhand state run hotels and guest houses and added that special train bogeys had been prepared in Dehradun and Haridwar to take people to various parts of the country.
Apart from the pilgrims Reddy said that they were also looking at the 'psycho-social rehabilitation' of people who had lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of the tragedy.
4.00 pm: Minor quake hits Pithorgarh in Uttarakhand
A minor quake measuring 3.5 on the richter scale has hit the Pithorgarh region in the state. Pithorgarh is located about 350km from the Joshimath region which was worst affected by the cloud burst.
Further details are awaited.
3:15 pm: Nine power companies to donate Rs 25 crore
Nine public sector power companies, including NTPC and PFC, will together contribute Rs 25 crore towards relief works in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia with CMDs of public sector power firms. (PTI)
2:15 pm: Bodies from MI17 crash recovered, to be sent to families today
National Disaster Management Authority official JK Sinha has said that they have recovered bodies of the jawans killed in the crash and will be handing them to the families today.
1:15 pm: Air operations at Badrinath hit by bad weather
Air rescue operations resumed today to pull out stranded people but they had to be halted for Badrinath as the weather turned bad, even as decaying bodies were being cremated swiftly in worst-hit Kedarnath Valley amid fears of an epidemic outbreak.
Priests carried out the last rites of the victims, which had resumed yesterday after they were 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. (PTI)
12:30 pm: Uttarakhand CM says they need food stocks for 2 months
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has said that there is ample relief material available.
"There is ample relief material which will be sent.Want at least 2 months stock to be available to them," Bahuguna was reported as saying by ANI.
The chief minister also said that relief material has been dropped using helicopters in 40 villages, he said.
11:00 am: Army says another 200 people remain in Harsil
Army officials have said that they have managed to evacuate 200 people from the pilgrimage site of Harsil but another 200 people remain to be brought out of there.
The better weather conditions may assist rescuers to carry out more evacuation missions today.
10: 35 am: Weather clears for rescue operations
The weather has reportedly cleared in Uttarakhand and it is helping rescuers evacuate stranded people at various locations like Badrinath, reported CNN-IBN.
Thousands are still stranded in pilgrimage sites like Badrinath owing to the roads leading to the site being washed away and could take days to be repaired.
8.20 am: Mass cremations begin in Rudraprayag district
Mass cremations began on Wednesday at Kedar Valley in Rudraprayag district in accordance with religious tenets. The cremations took place amid fears that an epidemic might begin due to the decomposing bodies.
According to a report in the Hindustan Times, Rudraprayag district magistrate Dileep Jawalkar was not able to specify the number of cremated bodies due to a lack of contact with the officials who had gone there for this purpose.
8.00 am: 'Human greed' and bureaucratic red tape is the next hurdle to cross, says Uttarakhand chief secretary
In a conversation with the Times of India, Uttarakhand chief secretary Subhash Kumar acknowledged the role that 'human greed' will now play in the relief process. "Government departments have started coming up with exaggerated demands for funds and we have to address the issue of whether money meant for reconstruction should be left at the discretion of tehsildars and local officials," said Kumar. "Bahut log khush bhi hote hain. (Some people find such situations convenient)."
The devastation in Uttarakhand will, however, require an immediate and transparent response. Infrastructure in the form of roads, bridges and hospitals has been completely washed away. The reconstruction is primed to take at least two to three years.
"Babuon ka chakkar hoga (there'll be the complex web of bureaucratic procedures. Contracts may not be awarded swiftly as decisions taken even by the rank of the officer of principal secretary in one department will be required to be examined by a chain of officers in the finance department. The whole process can go on for up to year," said Kumar to the Times of India.
"Single tender situations will be created by cartels of contractors who'd try to bag the big contracts. We can address the problem only by laying down transparent norms for procurement and award of contracts."
The chief secretary also told TOI that he has suggested to the chief minister that the comptroller and auditor general as well as the central vigilance commission should be involved in setting up the authority and the finalization of norms for the disbursement of reconstruction funds as well as for award of contracts and procurement.
End of updates for 26 June.
10. 30 pm: Crooks claim aid by posing as relatives of affected pilgrims
A team of Revenue officials from Maharashtra has foiled a bid of crooks to claim financial assistance and other benefits by posing themselves as relatives and acquaintances of the pilgrims from the state affected by floods in Uttarakhand.
The team from Thane district, including deputy collector Manoj Ranade, was deputed in Kedarnath to assist pilgrims from the state stranded in the rain-ravaged Uttarakhand and has so far helped out more than 2,500 pilgrims, one of the officials who is part of the team told PTI.
He said a group of 35 persons approached the officials in Uttarakhand claiming that they are the relatives and/or acquaintances of pilgrims from Maharashtra who are missing.
The relief announced by the state government includes Rs 2,000 cash for return journey, medicines, food and other aid.
9.30 pm: Uttarakhand faces threat of possible outbreak of diseases
Uttarakhand now faces a new threat: possible outbreak of diseases as the waters from the flash floods recede. A few diarrhoea cases have already been reported from Haridwar (Alwalpur), Uttarkashi (Udvi) and Rudraprayag (Chandrapuri), an official of the health ministry said.
But no food or air borne has been reported.
Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Jagdish Prasad told IANS: "A total of seven teams, including four from the central health ministry and three from National Institute of Mental Health (NIMHANS), Bangalore, have reached Uttarakhand to assess the threat of epidemics and other health issues."
The teams from NIMHANS will provide psycho-social support to the victims.
Apart from this, teams of health experts from the state government have also fanned out across Uttarakhand.
8. 30 pm: PM condoles death of IAF personnel in chopper crash
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked to Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne to condole the death of Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel who died in Tuesday's helicopter crash in Uttarakhand.
According to an official release, the prime minister said he had "full confidence in the force and its capability to overcome this tragedy and continue the arduous task in Uttarakhand".
"Your men have done heroic work in treacherous circumstances and saved thousands of lives," the prime minister told Browne. He said the country was grateful to the armed forces for their selfless and determined efforts in helping the people in the aftermath of the disaster.
An IAF helicopter on a rescue mission in flood and landslide-hit Uttarakhand crashed Tuesday, killing 20 personnel from the IAF, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the National Disaster Response Force, besides pilgrims.
7:51 pm: Air India flies out 400 pilgrims, tourists
Air India has flown out over 400 pilgrims and tourists from various places in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.
The national carrier has facilitated seats to more than 350 passengers for Chennai and 75 for Odisha, who were stranded at different locations in Uttarakhand, a statement from the Civil Aviation Ministry said.
AI was providing a 50 percent discount on the basic fare to the passengers on the flights operating out of Dehradun and its officials were in contact with resident commissioners of Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh providing details of availability of seats.
Read more here
5:40 pm: Shinde says Uttarakhand airspace now open to all VIPs, including Modi
After facing flak for Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi visiting Uttarakhand while rescue operations were on, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that it was now all right for VIPs to visit relief operations.
“I had advised VIPs not to travel Uttarakhand as situation then was different. At that time rescue and relief operations were going on in full swing. The advice was for only three-four days. But now situation has changed. Anyone can go there. Even Modi can go,” he told reporters.
5.18pm: 560 dead, 340 missing, says NDMA
National Disaster Management Authority vice chairman M Shashidhar Reddy today said that the official death toll stands at 560 while 340 people are missing and nearly 4,000 people still stranded.
Making clear that there is high possibility of the death toll climbing up, Reddy said, "There are 10 feet high debris in Kedarnath and we fear that several bodies are trapped."
However, the disaster management body said that the rescue unit has little role to play in the cremation of the dead as it is the responsibility of the local administration.
"NDMA will only coordinate in the process," he said.
The NDMA second-in-command also offered his condolences to the families of the victims of Thursday's IAF chopper crash in Gaurikund and paid his homage to the deceased.
Admitting that retrieving the bodies of the dead is getting difficult he said, "Bodies of the deceased in the air crash will be brought out from the crash site in two-three days. It is a tough terrain."
4.38pm: Kedarnath Temple
According to CNN-IBN, Uttarkhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said that the state government will build the Kedarnath temple that was ravaged by the flood fury on 15 and 16 July.
4.25pm: Moderate rainfall reported in Phata, Gaurikund and Guptkashi hampering air operations. According to CNN-IBN, 5,000 people are still stranded in Badrinath.
3.20 pm Army launches website giving details of its rescue operations
The 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 flashing the latest, the site also contains a list of updated helpline numbers and links to state govt sites.
Read more here
2.20 pm: All twenty bodies recovered from chopper crash site
Paramilitary soldiers have recovered all 20 bodies from the Gaurikand chopper crash site.
The helicopter crashed late Tuesday when its rotor blades hit the hillside while returning with survivors of flooding and landslides that have killed more than 1,000 people and washed away thousands of homes, roads and bridges since mid-June in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.
Soldiers using ropes reached the crash site early Wednesday and found the bodies of 20 people, including five air force crew members, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said.
The helicopter's cockpit voice recorder was recovered and an inquiry has been ordered to determine the cause of the crash, Browne said.
Some 45 aircraft have been used in rescue and relief operations, but intermittent rain and dense fog have dogged the efforts since Sunday.
Troops were trying to rescue about 5,000 people who remained stranded in the towns of Badrinath and Harsil.
1.54 pm: Rajnath Singh directs state units to not flag off relief material
In a clear dig at Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi's flagging off of relief convoy trucks yesterday, Rajnath Singh has tweeted that the BJP has directed all state units not to flag off relief material as it "hurts human sensibilities". He also tweeted that the BJP today dispatched eight truckloads of relief material and Rs56,06,994 as a symbolic gesture.
The BJP today dispatched 8 truckload of relief material and Rs 56,06,994 in cash as symbolic gesture from Lucknow to Uttarakhand.
— Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) June 26, 2013
The BJP has also directed all state units not to flag off relief material as it hurts the human sensibilities.
— Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) June 26, 2013
1.45 pm: RK Singh insists that the state had asked ITBP for help with specialised equipment
Home secretary RK Singh told CNN-IBN that the jawans were the first to reach the scene of the devastation. "They were working in very adverse circumstances," Singh said. "On the cremation tussle between the Centre and the state force, it's not true that the ITBP has refused to cremate bodies. The state had asked for help, but in terms of specialised equipment, not personnel."
Singh asserted that help was being provided. "Our focus is not just to rescue tourists but also to help villages. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is on the job of repairing roads that have been washed away." Singh also said there was no final casualty figure that had been reached.
12.39 pm: 5 IAF personnel, 9 from NDRF, 6 from ITBP in chopper crash
Officials have said that the dead from the chopper crash include five IAF personnel, nine from the National Disaster Response Force and six from the ITBP.
Eight sorties have been completed since morning in Harsil, to bring back stranded survivors from various areas. However bad weather has meant that air rescue efforts have been choppy. In Badrinath, air evacuations only stared after a considerable delay in the morning.
Meanwhile the army has constructed a steel bridge between Badrinath and Joshimath to aid rescue operations on foot.
11.06 am: Air rescue operations resume in Badrinath
Air rescue operations have resumed between Badrinath and Joshimath thanks to a let up in the rain.
However choppers are grounded in Phata, Gourikund and Gaurikund where rain has resumed. The Met department has also warned that helicopter movement is risky as heavy isolated showers are likely in pockets of the state.
Gaurikund is the site of Tuesday's tragic crash where a rescue chopper with 20 people on board came down while returning from a rescue sortie in Kedarnath.
10.45 am: Compensation for families of jawans killed in chopper crash
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has rushed to announce compensation for the families of those killed in the chopper crash near Gaurikund on Tuesday. In addition to Rs 10 lakh each for the families of those killed, Bahuguna said that the children of these jawans would receive free education in the state.
He has also declared a day of state mourning.
Uttarakhand is home to a number of prestigious schools like the Doon school and the Wellham boys and girls schools.
Meanwhile Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has said that he will also donate a sum of Rs 5 lakh for each of the victim families.
10.31 am: Twelve bodies recovered from chopper crash site
Four more bodies were recovered by IAF commandos near Gaurikund in Uttarakhand where an IAF Mi-17 helicopter carrying 20 people had crashed during a rescue mission and all onboard are feared killed.
During night-long search operations, Garud commandos recovered four more bodies, IAF sources said, adding that till this morning 12 bodies have been found from the site of yesterday’s crash of the large Air Force chopper.
The dead include five IAF officials while the identity of others is being ascertained, they said.
There were 20 people onboard the ill-fated chopper — five from IAF, six from ITBP and rest from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) sources said.
The Mi-17 V5 chopper was on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath and crashed yesterday afternoon while returning from Kedarnath north of Gaurikund, according to an IAF spokesperson.
9.56 am: Morale is still high, insists IAF chief
IAF Chief NAK Browne who visited the site of a chopper crash on Monday said meanwhile, that most of the evacuation work has been completed, adding that they would continue with rescue work once the weather allowed them a window of opportunity.
Speaking about the chopper crash that took place on Tuesday evening Browne said, "What exactly happened we will know only once we recover MI17 voice data recorder. We have sent commandos to the crash site. We have recovered recording devices and only analysis will reveal the cause of the crash."
However Browne was also quick to say that the IAF was not going anywhere. "Morale is still very high...Our rotors will not stop churning", he said.
The Air Chief also said that 20 people had been killed in the crash.
9.47 am: Heavy rains ground choppers, further landslides feared
Rescue operations continue to be severely affected by bad weather as torrential rains show no sign of letting up. Air rescue operations have been grounded in most areas and while ground operations are continuing, CNN-IBN reports that landslides are a fresh threat.
9.00 am: Epidemic fears in Uttarakhand, while bodies continue to decay
According to CNN-IBN, floods affected areas in Uttarakhand are facing the threat of a spreading epidemic. The report says that in the past 3 days more than 300 villagers from villages of Rampur, Sitapur and Sonprayag have reported sick with similar symptoms such diarrhoea, fever, dysentery etc.
Hitender Negi, a Doctor in Guptkashi, said, "Many people suffering from diarrhoea, dysentery and there are no doctors present. There has been very heavy rainfall this year and due to many bodies in the catchment area there are too many flies in the area."
Most of the local villages depend on natural springs for drinking water.
"There are so many bodies across the Kedarnath valley that it is not surprising that their decay is causing contamination of water. It needs to be contained now or we could have a bigger problem at hand," an ITBP official said told Times of India.
7.00 am: MI17 V5 crash
According to Captain Ajay Srivastava, another pilot flying on the same route, the MI17 that crashed had flown from dehradun with their helicopter in the morning. He told CNN-IBN, "The incident happened at 1 or 2 pm around Guptkashi, and got confirmed at 4 pm. The weather is very bad."
MI 17 chopper had taken off from Gauchar and was heading towards Gaurikund. The reason for the crash is not known but unconfirmed reports say it could have been because of fog. The IAF says its operations in the area will continue.
There were 19 people on board the aircraft and 8 bodies have been recovered.
Updates for 25 June 2013 end
10.03 pm: BSNL restores 272 mobile towers
State-run telecom operator BSNL has restored 272 mobile towers in Uttarakhand and 44 telephone exchanges, CMD RK Upadhyay today said.
The company, however, could not restore telecom infrastructure at three locations - Dharchula, Narayan Bazar and Kedarnath where all equipments of the company were washed away in the devastating floods, he added.
The BSNL chief said technology makes it possible for authorities to find out the exact number of people in the affected areas based on their mobile phone usage.
"It is technically possible to know how many customers were there (during the calamity) in that area at a particular time. That can be done," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director RK Upadhyay said here.
When asked if BSNL tried to find out the number of its customers who could have been hit by floods, the BSNL CMD said: "This is for government to consider. As a licencing authority, the government can task any operator to do that.
Technical systems of each operator is independent and BSNL can find out about it customers."
The death toll has crossed over 800 due to unprecedented flash floods in Uttarakhand and initially over 70,000 pilgrims were estimated to be stranded in affected area. As on date 8,000 people are still estimated to be stranded in flood area.
Upadhyay that over 1,250 people used BSNL's mobile tracking service, accessible though helpline number 1503 and 09412024365, to know last location of their friends and relatives using BSNL mobile connection in flood-hit areas.
"We have responded to 949 queries till first half today," he said.
Telecom operator MTS and Aircel have also similar started mobile tracking services. These services can be accessed by dialling 91-9152550000 and 91-9152550001 for knowing the last location of an MTS number and 91-9716215000 and 91-9716218000 for an Aircel number.
For Bharti Airtel, the numbers are 9818003057 and 9958976317 while for the last location of an Idea Cellular customer, people can dial 8191999999 and 8191999998.
9. 40 pm: IAF claims 8 bodies recovered, 19 feared dead
Nineteen people, including Air Force and para-military personnel, were today feared killed when a sophisticated IAF helicopter crashed in bad weather near Gaurikund in Uttarakhand during rescue operations.
Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) M Sashidhar Reddy said eight bodies have been recovered and chances of any survivor among the 19 onboard were remote.
"There were 19 people onboard including NDRF, ITBP and IAF personnel. Eight bodies have been recovered," he told PTI.
An IAF spokesperson said in Delhi, "One Mi-17 V5 chopper on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath while returning from Kedarnath crashed north of Gaurikund."
Among those killed were three IAF officers, she said, adding that eight people died in the mishap.
Rudraprayag SP Varinderjeet Singh said the cause of the crash is not immediately known but chances are high that the mishap occurred due to bad weather.
A senior Air Force officer in Gauchar said the ill-fated Mi-17 chopper had made two sorties to the Kedarnath area since this morning and was on its third sortie when it crashed.
The crash occurred in "difficult" weather conditions created by rains and fog, he said.
The chopper belonged to a unit from Barrackpore Air Force Station in West Bengal under the Eastern Air Command.
A Court of Inquiry has been order to investigate the crash, the spokesperson said.
The IAF said its operations in the area will continue.
IAF had started inducting Mi-17 V5 choppers only last year after 80 of them were ordered from Russia.
This is the second incident of a helicopter crash this week in the hill state.
A private helicopter carrying relief materials for the rain-affected people in Rudraprayag district had crashed on Sunday near Gaurikund leaving the pilot injured.
8.00pm: PM condoles loss of life in accident
"Our forces are conducting a heroic task in rescue and relief work in Uttarakhand. This accident during relief operations has come as a huge shock to me. My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost their lives. The nation mourns with me the loss of our heroes whose selfless work has saved thousands of lives. Continuing their work would be the best homage to them."
This happened in the afternoon, they could not get out of weather: Capt Ajay Srivastav (was flying same route as Mi17 that crashed)
— ANI (@ANI_news) June 25, 2013
They flew out with us, went to Gauchar and onward to Guptkashi :Capt Ajay Srivastav on IAF Mi 17 chopper crash
— ANI (@ANI_news) June 25, 2013
6:45 pm: IAF says rescue operations won't be affected by crash
"One Mi-17 V5 chopper on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath while returning from Kedarnath crashed north of Gaurikund," an IAF spokesperson said.
Eight persons on board, including five crew members, suffered fatal injuries in the mishap, she said in Delhi.
A Court of Inquiry has been order to investigate the crash, the spokesperson said.
The IAF said its operations in the area will continue. IAF had started inducting Mi-17 V5 choppers only last year after 80 of them were ordered from Russia.
This is the second incident of a helicopter crash this week in the hill state.
A private helicopter carrying relief materials for the rain-affected people in Rudraprayag district had crashed on Sunday near Gaurikund leaving the pilot injured. (PTI)
6:30 pm: Fog may have been cause
The MI17 V5 is one of the biggest choppers being used by the Indian Air Force in the rescue operations there and according to CNN-IBN, the chopper that crashed was one of the latest that the Indian Air Force acquired.
Currently the cause of the crash is being stated as fog though there is no confirmation about the cause of the crash yet.
A court of inquiry has been ordered into the incident by the air force.
6:10 pm: IAF MI17 helicopter crashes, 8 dead
An MI17 chopper carrying pilgrims during a rescue sortie has crashed, reports CNN-IBN.
The chopper which was engaged in rescue operations in Kedarnath was reportedly carrying three civilians and five crew members when it crashed, the report said.
The chopper crashed near Gaurikund. Air Traffic Control officials said they lost contact with the chopper while it was in Gaurikund area.
The cause of the crash is still not known and rescue crew are en route to the site of the accident.
There is no confirmation of any survivors from the crash, the report stated.
5:00 pm: Uttarakhand could see more rains
The meteorological department has said that it expects more rainfall over the next two days.
The heavy rainfall will only affect the rescue operations further, given rescue operations were affected today as well on account on the heavy rains in Uttarakhand.
4:20 pm: More bodies trapped under debris, says NDMA
The National Disaster Management Authority has said that they suspect there are many dead bodies under debris strewn across the flood affected areas and were still attempting to figure how they could detect them.
"There is no such terminology as a 'national disaster'. The disaster in Uttarakhand has been declared a disaster of severe nature," a senior official of the NDMA said at a press conference today.
The housing secretary of Uttarakhand is the person handling relief materials from all over the country, he said.
The NDMA official also said that in the case of a natural disaster, MPs can contribute up to ten lakhs of their personal salary.
3:35 pm: Death toll could rise above 1,000, says Bahuguna
The Uttarakhand Chief Minister has said that the death toll is presently pegged around 1,000 but that number could rise in the coming days as rescue operations continue:
The death toll is near 1000. After clearing the debris, it could be more than that: Vijay Bahuguna, CM Uttrakhand
— ANI (@ANI_news) June 25, 2013
2.30pm: Centre allocates extra 4,000 tonne of wheat, rice
The Centre today allocated an additional 4,000 tonnes of wheat and rice for relief measures in flood affected Uttarakhand.
The death toll has mounted to 822 after torrential rains on 15-16 June led to flash floods in Uttarakhand, leaving large numbers of travellers and pilgrims stranded at different locations in the state.
According to a senior official from the Food Corporation of India, "We have received an order from food ministry to allocate an additional 2,000 tonnes of wheat and rice each to Uttarakhand at an economic cost".
The economic cost means the minimum support price (MSP) plus other charges incurred during procurement and storage.
Currently, the economic cost of wheat is around Rs 19 per kg and that of rice Rs 24-25 per kg.
The Uttarakhand government has been told to lift the additional allocation in the next 50 days, the official said. (PTI)
1:15 pm: Inclement weather affects rescue operations
CNN-IBN reports that air rescue operations from Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib have been suspended again to due bad weather.
12:50 pm: Toll rises to 807 after 127 bodies found in Kedarnath
Rain and fog delayed rescue operations in Uttarakhand where the death toll in the calamity rose to 807 with 127 more bodies recovered from Kedarnath even as security forces began the process of cremating decaying corpses lying in the shrine premises.
Fresh incidents of landslips were also reported from Tehri district in which a woman and a child were killed. Foggy and overcast conditions in Dehradun delayed take off by choppers at Sahasradhara helipad and Jolly Grant Airport but air rescue operations to evacuate around 9000 people have now resumed with improvement in the weather.
12:30 pm: What Kedarnath looked like before the floods and after
The Kedarnath temple which survived the flash floods in the state has however, been badly damaged with estimates that the pilgrimage to the temple may have to be halted for the next few years.
11:30 pm: SC tells Centre to step up rescue efforts
After reading the Action Taken Report from the Uttarakhand and Centre the Supreme Court has scheduled the next hearing of a PIL questioning the relief efforts in Uttarakhand to Friday.
The apex court has told the Centre to step up relief efforts in Uttarakhand, CNN-IBN reported.
The next hearing has been scheduled for Friday after the petitioner in the case sought time to submit some more data in connection with the case, reports stated.
11.10 pm: Waiting for weather to improve in Kedarnath, says ITBP
The Indo Tibetan Border Police force which is conducting rescue operations in Kedarnath, have said that they are waiting for weather to clear before finishing up rescue operations in the area.
"60 people are still stranded in Kedarnath, mostly Sadhus and porters, will rescue them once weather clears", Ajay Chadha of the ITBP to ANI News. "Weather continues to be bad in Uttarakhand, we are looking for improvement in weather so that helicopter sorties can be conducted", he added.
10.41 am: Worst is over, says Uttarakhand CM Vijay Bahuguna
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has said that bad weather is continuing to create problems for rescuers, given that choppers are unable to fly on rescue sorties. Around 10,000 people are believed to be trapped in various areas across the state and though ground operations are continuing, these have also been greatly slowed by the bad weather.
However the Chief Minister said that the worst was over. "We are making efforts to provide compensation to the people as soon as possible", he said, adding that the maximum deaths have occurred in the Kedarghati.
Bahuguna added that there was still no word on an official death toll, adding that they would have to wait for more information from rescue agencies. The official toll is expected to be just over a 1,ooo but the CM had previously said that it was highly likely that the number of dead could top 5000.
10.13 am: 430 rescued from Harsil-Gangotri area
Despite heavy rains which are hampering rescue operations, people are still being evacuated. 430 people have been evacuated from the Harsil Gangotri access, CNN-IBN reported.
Heavy rains have been forecast for most of the day.
9.16 am: Heavy rains continue to hamper rescue work
The Met department has said that heavy rains will continue in flood hit Uttarakhand today, further hampering rescue efforts.
The latest forecast said that there would be heavy rains in the regions of Uttarkashi and Chamoli as well as in other areas. Thousands are still stranded in the area.
The heavy rains have grounded air rescue efforts, severely hampered ground operations and also prevented the holding of mass funerals in Kedarnath, where bodies are starting to decompose, authorities said.
Meanwhile forces are calling in more reinforcements for rescue work. The elite MARCOS unit of the navy has been called in to aid search and rescue operations in Rudraprayag and drones will be used to retrieve bodies from inaccessible areas.
6.30 am: Preparations for mass cremation under way
The operation to evacuate stranded pilgrims from the flood-affected areas of Uttarakhand has run into a spot of rough weather, with rains picking up again. But simultaneously, rescue and relief teams are grappling with another looming crisis: the disposal of the hundreds of corpses in and around the Kedarnath shrine.
Time is of the essence if an outbreak of an epidemic is to be averted. Some of the bodies, which have been lying in the sun and the rain for more than two weeks, are said to be decomposing rapidly. But authorities are also wary of offending the religious sensitivities of the faithful.
Media reports have it that Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde consulted spiritual leaders, including Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand, to learn the proper religious protocol for performing a mass cremation near the Kedarnath shrine. The gurus are learnt to have said that if the proper rituals were abided by, the cremation would cause no spiritual pollution.
Accordingly, the Times of India reports, 150 quintals of wood, sourced from local depots, was transported to Gauchar. From there, it adds, the wood would be moved to Kedarnath by helicopter. Given the amount of wood that's required, it would take a very large number of sorties.
But rain on Monday prevented helicopters from taking off, which means that one more day was lost. Authorities now say they hope to complete the mass cremation on Tuesday.
Updates for 24 June end
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