All pilgrims evacuated from Hemkund Sahib: Punjab

Chandigarh, June 24 (IANS) Giving a big relief to people whose family members were stranded in calamity-hit Uttarakhand, the Punjab government Monday said all pilgrims at the Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib had been evacuated and were being transported to their respective homes in Punjab.

"Rescue operations to evacuate the pilgrims from the flood-ravaged areas of Uttarakhand have been further expedited and all the pilgrims stranded there have been safely evacuated from Sri Hemkund Sahib," a state government spokesman said here.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary A. Venu Prasad, who is stationed at Rishikesh to oversee relief and rehabilitation operations of the pilgrims from Punjab, said over 5,000 pilgrims had been dispatched to Punjab till Sunday night.

"Every single pilgrim from that area has been evacuated," he said.

Punjab Police's Deputy inspector General of Police Khubi Ram said a fleet of 36 mini-buses has been moved to Joshimath from Rishikesh (nearly 250 km) to bring back more pilgrims. The Punjab government has set up a base camp at the Gurdwara Sahib in Rishikesh and the pilgrims from the flood-hit areas were being brought there.

"A helicopter has been pressed into service for bringing out the pilgrims, who had been trapped in the area of Joshimath," the spokesman said.

The Punjab government has stationed 10 ambulances at Joshimath and Rishikesh to provide immediate first aid to the injured and ill patients.

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