Rescue teams continue to airlift people from flood-hit Uttarakhand(Update-Uttarakhand)

Dehradun/Chamoli/Tehri (Uttarakhand), June 20 (ANI): Army and military helicopters continued to lead rescue operations in flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand on Thursday, as they provided emergency supplies and evacuated stranded tourists and pilgrims.

More than hundred people have been killed, and air force helicopters have air dropped commandos to help rescue some of the tens of thousands of people unable to move because of the floods.

Tourists and pilgrims in Uttarkashi are facing a harrowing time as road connectivity has been disrupted due to landslides following incessant rains.

However, the authorities are working round the clock to clear the debris and vehicles carrying the tourists were slowly cruising towards safer locations.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Dehradun Range, Sanjay Gunjiyal, said: "Two to three officials, including me are being sent to the areas which have been identified, and the situation over there is grim and where extra effort is required."

"We are being sent to improve the situation, to provide them with basic amenities and so that the stranded people can be evacuated as soon as possible. The rest of the situations have been carefully studied and we are trying to rescue those who are in need of an immediate relief," he added.

The district had set up 32 camps to provide food and water for about 5,000 pilgrims and tourists caught by the floods while visiting local holy sites. The Ganges is sacred to Hindus.

The pilgrims were evacuated on foot from mountain tops in areas near Joshimath in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand on Wednesday (June 19). The rescued pilgrims were rushed to the Indian army's logistics base camps at Joshimath.

Uttarkhand's Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat said: "We are making necessary arrangements for the stranded tourists so that they can be sent to Haridwar and Delhi free of cost."

Rakesh Sharma, who is trying to contribute his bit to the rescue effort, said that at least 50 cars have been sent to Rishikesh to bring back some of the stranded people.

He also said that a complaint has been sent or received by the district magistrate that drivers of some of these vehicles are heartlessly asking for exorbitant sums of cash to ferry the distressed survivors to safer places.

He also said that the weather is still bad in Dehradun.

So far, eleven helicopters have dropped food packages and at least 25000 food packages are ready for drops at the Jolly Grant Airport.

Subhash Kumar said people came by taxi and buses will be given free service to Haridwar or any other nearby place.

"I have personally visited some of these places. About 5000 people are still in Gauri Kund. Twenty-eight have been rescued from there. Air force helicopters are not able to land there. Our private helicopters landed there," Kumar said.

Raj Kumar Goyal said: "There are so many people who are yet to be rescued. The government is not doing anything."

Madhu Agarwal, a resident of Jaipur, said her son was still stuck in Uttarakhand, and added that another 23 kin were also in the vicinity.

"They are just waiting for the weather to clear down. They have not been provided with any kind of assistance," she claimed.

Delhi resident Ashwani Kumar said:"We are very worried as they are not saying anything."

Kanpur resident Krishna said he had talked to his stranded relatives last Saturday.

"The government is not doing anything. They have not even provided any kind of food to the people. What will the Prime Minister do by visiting these places. Their first priority is to save the people who are stuck there," Krishna added.

Rains, which were 48 percent above normal across India up until June 16, are expected to ease up in the next week, according to weather department officials.

The low-lying areas have been battered by torrential downpours, as several highways have been blocked.

The inclement weather coupled with inaccessibility has made relief and rescue operations next to impossible.

Floods due to pre-monsoon rains that arrived a week ahead of schedule have swollen India's longest river Ganges, causing major devastation.

The rainfall has been heavier than normal, but the weather office is sticking to its forecast for average rains during the entire four-month period.

The rains usually cover all of India by mid-July, but this year it happened on June 16, the earliest such occurrence on record, a senior official at the India Meteorological Department said.

A strong start to the monsoon aids farm output as about 55 percent of the nation's arable land is rain-fed. It can also help hold down inflation, a critical concern for the government, which is preparing for national elections in 2014. (ANI)

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