50,000 still stranded, says the Chief Minister

Video: Kedarnath evacuated, Badrinath the next big challenge for rescue teams

The death toll in flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand crossed 550 as rescuers intensified efforts today to evacuate 50,000 people still stranded in different inaccessible parts of the hill state.

Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who gave the updated death toll, said tonight that 556 bodies were recovered from under the debris.

“556 bodies have been recovered and there were reports that more could be buried under the debris,” Bahuguna told CNN-IBN.

Bahuguna also said it will take another 15 days to complete the evacuation, adding “this kind of disaster has never happened in the Himalayan history“.

“Evacuation is taking time because roads are damaged.”

It was not immediately known if the death toll included 40 bodies found floating along the Ganges river near Haridwar.

“40 bodies have been recovered from different points along the Ganga since last evening... Senior Superintendent of Police in Haridwar Rajeev Swaroop said. As the terrible magnitude of nature’s fury continued to unfold and survivors spoke of untold miseries, the death toll was expected to rise with Uttarakhand Principal Secretary Rakesh Sharma saying casualty figures can be “shockingly high“.

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde earlier said the death toll touched 207 but at the same time said it could go up.

“So far, 207 people have lost their lives. But the toll may go up as debris in many areas is yet to be cleared”, he told reporters in Delhi.

State government officials had also earlier said that 207 bodies were recovered.

Nearly 34,000 stranded people were evacuated in operations on a war footing launched by multiple agencies including the Army, IAF and ITBP since the heavy monsoon rains pounded the state a week ago.

Rescuers were focussing on rain—ravaged Kedarnath area where 250 people are stranded before shifting focus to Badrinath where 9,000 people are stuck, officials said.

The IAF deployed 13 more aircraft for relief and rescue work, taking to 43 the total number of planes in operation

(This article was published on June 21, 2013)
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