Rescuers were on Saturday racing against time to reach out to 1000 stranded pilgrims sighted in the gorges and ravines between Kedarnath and Gaurikund as 17 foreign tourists were evacuated from flood-hit Dharasu in Uttarkashi district.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who arrived in the Uttarakhand capital to review rescue efforts with Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, said operations are underway on a war-footing to evacuate about 40,000 pilgrims stranded in various places and set a three-day deadline to the agencies involved to complete the evacuation process.
The death toll in flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand crossed 550 on Friday and was expected to rise as an eight-member team of experts is being sent to Kedarnath shrine to take a count of bodies lying in the temple area.
Disaster Management authorities here said that photos of the bodies strewn all over the area will be taken and put on the state government’s official website.
Officials said about 1000 more pilgrims stranded in Rambara and Junglechatti areas en route to Kedarnath shrine in Rudraprayag district were sighted by security forces.
These people seem to have taken refuge in the gorges and ravines in these areas when the massive deluge occurred nearly a week ago.
Hungry for days, many of those sighted are ill and and in need of immediate medical care, official sources said, adding the sick and ailing among will be evacuated on a priority basis.
Most of the link roads and Hindustan-Tibet National Highway was blocked at numerous places due to landslides and breaches and a large number of vehicles are stranded in the district.
The situation was improving in Uttar Pradesh as there was no fresh rainfall. While Sharda and Ghaghra have registered a downward trend, the River Ganga was rising all along its route from Fatehgarh to Ballia.
River Ghaghra, which was still flowing above the danger mark at Elgin Bridge (Barabanki), was receding and at Ayodhya and Turtipar, where it has crossed the red mark, it was static.