No trace of 462 pilgrims from Maharashtra in Uttarakhand

Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) As many as 2,470 people from Maharashtra are stranded in various parts of flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, and the government has established contact with 2008 of them, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said Thursday.

"We are concerned about the remaining 462 persons. We have got information this evening about a large group of around 400 people, stranded in the Gaurikund area, and we are making inquiries," Chavan told media persons Thursday evening.

One woman from Raigad district, adjacent to Mumbai, died in the floods which ravaged large parts of Uttarakhand last weekend.

Besides the Rs.10 crore sanctioned Wednesday for relief and rescue operations for the people from Maharashtra, the state government sanctioned an additional Rs.50 lakh Thursday for the Maharashtra Government Camp Office in Dehradun, which is coordinating rescue efforts.

These amounts would be utilised to arrange for helicopters, food, medicines and clothes, and to bring victims back to their home state, Chavan said.

Information available from various sources Wednesday showed that at least 1,353 pilgrims and tourists from the state were stranded in different parts of Uttarakhand in the past few days.

Until Wednesday, the state could not establish contact with 334 persons; that figure has since risen to 462. The current whereabouts of these people are unknown.

Two days ago, the state government set up a Special Cell in New Delhi headed by a team of senior officers to coordinate relief and rescue operations for people stranded in Uttarakhand from the state. Two more special cells in Haridwar and Dehradun have also opened, since then.

Chavan said he would stay in regular touch with officials from the army, the disaster management teams and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna to keep abreast of developments related to the rescue of those missing.

All officials from the state have been instructed not to leave their bases until the last person from Maharashtra has been found and brought back safely.

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