600 to 700 people still stranded in Kedarnath, rescue operations resume(Lead:Rescue operations)

New Delhi, June 23 (ANI): Director General of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Ajay Chadha said here today that 600 to 700 people are still stranded in Kedarnath and ITBP teams are waiting for weather conditions to improve to airlift the stranded people to safe locations. According to recent reports, the rescue operations have been resumed.

"The only area in which we are facing problems is that of Kedarnath, that is the critical area. There are around 600 to 700 people still stranded there. We have the capacity to evacuate these many people in one day. But if the sorties are not functioning then we would have stay there. Unless the weather clears, the people would have to stay there, but our teams are deployed there with food and medicine. Until the weather clears they would have to stay there," said Chadha in New Delhi.

After a brief suspension due to bad weather early in the morning, the rescue operations in flood- hit Uttarakhand resumed on Sunday on a war footing to evacuate 22,000 pilgrims still stranded in high altitude areas.

About 70,000 pilgrims have been evacuated so far from Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts where the famous Himalayan shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are located.

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who took stock of the affected areas in Uttarakhand on Saturday, said the Centre will provide all possible help to the Vijay Bahuguna Government for rescue and relief operations in flood and cloud burst affected areas of the hill state.

Shinde further said the evacuations will be completed in one or two days if the rescue operations continue in the same manner.

"Despite bad weather, the Army, NDRF and ITBP are landing and conducting rescue operations. Operations are underway on a war footing," he said, while emphasizing that the men in uniform are trying their best to evacuate those stranded.

The Home Minister said the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been ordered to build access roads so that the stranded people can be reached.

Shinde further informed that the government has appointed former Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal as a nodal officer to oversee the relief and rescue operations.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has deployed 13 more aircraft for relief and rescue operations. 55 helicopters are being used in what is the military's largest rescue and relief operation ever.

The IAF has also deployed its heavy lift MI-26 helicopters for transporting fuel and heavy equipment required by the BRO to clear roads closed due to landslide.

With the Meteorological Department warning of more rain and storms from Monday, the various agencies on the ground, including the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), are operating with urgency.

The Uttarakhand Government has set up control rooms in all districts. These include: State Emergency and Operation Centre - 0135-2710334, 9897890981, 9152443853; Rudraprayag - 01364-233727, 9412914875 and 8859504022; Nainital - 05942-231179, 9456714092 and Dehradun - 0135-2726066, 9412964935. (ANI)

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