Tamil Nadu Govt. ensures safe return of pilgrims from U'khand

Dehradun/Chennai, June 22 (ANI): The Tamil Nadu Government on Saturday informed that it has made all adequate arrangements to ensure complete safety and comfort of the pilgrims of the state so that they reach back home safely from Dehradun.

"In the stretch between Gaurikund and Kedarnath, there are at least 15-25 pilgrims from Tamil Nadu who are stuck there and it was confirmed yesterday when we last had a word with them around 11'o clock. But after that, we haven't been able to get in touch with them. We have passed on the information to the Uttarakhand Government too and we are hoping that they would be rescued today," said Tamil Nadu Revenue Secretary Gagandeep Bedi.

"That point is a bit critical, but the apart from that many people have come down from alternate routes and the Government of Tamil Nadu has ensured that they get transportation and accommodation or any kind of medical aid if required in Delhi and then also a flight back to Tamil Nadu. The Government of Uttarakhand has coordinated well," he added.

Meanwhile, the flood victims who reached Chennai lauded the state government's efforts for its rescue mission and getting them back home safely from Uttarakhand, which is devastated by the flood mayhem.

"It's a very proud (thing). They have taken necessary steps and then quick steps to (help) return (the pilgrims) from Delhi to Chennai. And I think so they have arranged buses too to the hometowns itself. I feel very proud of them," said Prabhu, a relative of a flood victim who received his family members anxiously at the airport.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has constituted a high-level committee to coordinate the rescue operations.

Headed by Special Representative to the State of Tamil Nadu at Delhi S.T.K. Jaggaiyan, Additional Chief Secretary and Commissioner of Revenue Administration T.S. Sridhar and the Secretary to Government Revenue Department of Tamil Nadu Gagandeep Bedi, the committee has been asked to handle the rescue co-ordination by camping in Dehradun and Haridwar.

This team is in Haridwar from June 20 with a team of officers to assist.

A 24-hour helpline is functioning at Tamil Nadu House New Delhi, (01124193455, 01124193456 and 1070 a toll free number in Chennai) to provide guidance, information and assistance to stranded travellers and their relatives.

So far, 275 travellers of Tamil Nadu have been brought to Tamil Nadu House, New Delhi, and they are currently accommodated in it. They are being provided with food and medical assistance.

Evacuation of stranded people from flood-ravaged areas of Uttarakhand today picked up pace with security forces rescuing 17 foreign tourists from Dharasu and sighting 1000 pilgrims stuck between Kedarnath and Gaurikund.

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who took stock of the affected areas in Uttarakhand today, 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, who took stock of the rescue and relief operations in the flash flood hit areas of the hill state, 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 said the identification of dead bodies has begun.

He, however, said that some of the bodies recovered were not identifiable.

" DNA tests of decomposed bodies will also be undertaken," said Shinde.

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

He informed that 550 deaths had occurred till yesterday.

Shinde further said there is no need to declare the situation as a national calamity as it makes no difference so far the relief and rescue operations are concerned. He also asked the political parties not to do politics on the situation.

Over 73,000 people have so far been evacuated from the flood and landslide-hit areas of Uttarakhand as rescuers intensified their efforts to help those stranded in different inaccessible parts of the hill state.

The army, which has been at the forefront of rescue operation in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, has rescued nearly 16,000 persons.

The army is reaching out to the civil population by providing food packets, establishing medical camps and deploying its technically endowed manpower, to ensure that the vulnerable bunds are strengthened and breaches are effectively plugged.

In Joshimath sector, the army has constructed a temporary bridge across Alaknanda River near Govindghat to facilitate Hemkunt Sahib pilgrims to cross over.

A road link has been opened from Sonprayag to Gaurikund.

The ITBP personnel have so far rescued over 13,000 people.

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 Boarder Road Organization (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.

Special trains are being run, and additional bogies have been added to existing trains to help the pilgrims reach their destinations.

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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