Rescue operations pick pace as weather clears

Dehradun: With the weather improving, the rescue operations in Uttarakhand today picked up pace, with 17 choppers being flown to evacuate people still stranded at various locations.
 
Mass cremation of bodies in Kedarnath, the worst-affected in flood fury, was on, as authorities were racing against time to minimise risks of epidemic outbreak.
 
As the sun shone bright this morning, helicopters took off to rescue an estimated 1,237 people now stuck at different places in the hill state, with the Harshil sector totally cleared of pilgrims. About 3,000 people are still reported missing, officials said.
 
The focus now is on Badrinath Dham area, where majority of the pilgrims are now stranded, they said.
 
All major roads except the Joshimath-Badrinath, Rudraprayag-Gaurikund and Uttarkashi-Gangotri routes have been reopened, raising hopes of speedy evacuation, they said.
 
Army chief Gen Bikram Singh arrived this morning at Gauchar to review ongoing relief operations and pay tribute to the 20 soldiers killed in a chopper crash near Gaurikund on Tuesday.
 
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is also scheduled to arrive in Dehradun to honour the bravehearts who laid down their lives during the rescue operations.
 
An official estimate said approximately 1,237 persons are now stranded at different places across the state. Till now 1,04,687 persons have been evacuated from different places by road and air.