'Kedarnath Shrine temple is safe': Vijay Bahuguna

Dehradun (Uttarakhand), June 20 (ANI): While the relief and rescue operation is in full swing in Uttarakhand, which has been completely battered by unprecedented flash floods, torrential rains and massive landslides, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Vijay Bahuguna on Wednesday said that the famous Kedarnath Shrine temple is safe.

Talking to reporters, the state's chief minister said, "Though a major part of the temple has been hit by flash floods, the Kedarnath shrine is safe."

Talking about the relief and rescue operation, the Chief Minister said, "The Kedarnath town has been reduced to debris. Though the relief and rescue work is in full swing it will take one year to restart the Chardham Yatra. "

"The Tehri dam on the Bhagirathi River in Uttarakhand stopped Uttar Pradesh from washing away," he added.

However, he assured that there is no shortage of funds or resources.

When asked to confirm the death toll due to the tragedy, Bahuguna said, "There cannot be an exact estimate of the death toll."

Meanwhile, the rescue operations are in full swing in Uttarakhand where the death toll in the rain and floods has gone up to 150 as thousands of pilgrims still remained stranded.

Personnel of the Indian army have begun air evacuation of isolated pockets along Govindghat -Badrinath road and Ghagriya -Hemkund track. Nine army helicopters have been pressed into service and an additional six helicopters would be operational from today.

The army, which has also inducted 12 medical teams and opened an emergency medical helpline, has conducted two days of uninterrupted humanitarian assistance to stranded people in Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Pithoragarh districts.

Over 10,000 personnel of the armed forces have been deployed for the relief and rescue operations.

Brigadier A. Arora yesterday told reporters in Chamoli that the roads in the calamity-hit region were washed away by landslides.

"At many places, the roads are broken and washed away by the landslide. We have parked the vehicles in those places of the roads, which are intact. The pilgrims are being evacuated on foot and are being taken to Joshimath, where we have arranged for food and emergency medicines," he said.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh yesterday along with Congress President Sonia Gandhi made an aerial survey of the worst-hit areas in the state.

Expressing serious concern over the entire incident, Dr. Singh also announced 1,000 crore rupee disaster flood relief for the state where flash floods have claimed over a hundred lives and left thousands of pilgrims to Himalayan shrines stranded.

"I have decided to provide an amount of Rs. 1000 crore to Uttarakhand for disaster relief, of which Rs. 145 crore is being released immediately. I have also directed all central agencies to render all possible assistance in their domain to the State," said Dr. Singh. (ANI)

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