Evacuation of pilgrims ends in Uttarakhand

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BadrinathDehradun, July 2:Rescue operations to evacuate stranded pilgrims on Tuesday came to an end in disaster-hit Uttarakhand with a group of 150 being safely taken out from Badrinath while bad weather hampered cremation of bodies in Kedarnath for the fourth day.

Officials said rescue of pilgrims was over in the State and evacuation of locals will be done gradually with restoration of road network.

The administration was now focusing on supplying relief to worst-hit areas as food grain shortage was being reported in 170 villages.

With the road network washed away in many areas, a patrol party has been sent beyond Gaurikind along with PWD gangmen to clear the debris in order to reach the cut off villages.

Chamoli District Magistrate S.A. Murugesan said, “All the pilgrims stranded in Badrinath dham have been evacuated.Now some locals and Nepali labourers remain there who will be evacuated by this evening if the weather permits.”

However, the cremation of bodies lying in Kedarnath could not be done for the fourth day today due to bad weather.

DGP Satyavrat Bansal said a 200-member team of medical experts and police personnel had left for Kedarnath to help in the task of cremation of bodies but bad weather in the area has stalled the work.

Around 65 bodies are lying in the Kedarnath area with the number of bodies cremated there so far is still pegged at 36.

Mr. Murugesan told PTI that supply of relief to affected villages continues to pose a challenge to the administration with a vast network of roads and bridges still damaged in the area.

The bridge over Alaknanda at Lambagar is badly damaged which will take at least 2-3 months to be repaired, he said, adding that the BRO is working on it.

Officials said taking relief material to remote villages due to poor connectivity is a major problem.

Though choppers are being used for the purpose the exercise is confined to just a few areas, they said.

With Gaurikund-Kedar Highway still closed, there is foodgrain shortage in at least 170 villages in Kedarghati area in Rudraprayag district, officials said.

But relief material has been despatched to Kalimath, Chandrapuri and Sauri areas in the district.

Gangotri Highway in Uttarkashi district is blocked at eight points while Yamunotri Highway is closed from Hanumanchatti to Yamunotri making it difficult to take relief material to affected villages.

The Finance Ministry, meanwhile, has sought financial assistance from World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) for rebuilding damaged infrastructure in the disaster-hit State.

“In view of the emergency situation, both ADB and the World Bank have been requested to fast track the processes of needs assessment, project preparation and approval,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

Loans from the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) would be passed on by Government of India to Uttarakhand as 90 per cent grant and 10 per cent loan, since it is a special category State, the statement added.

In view of the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had last month announced financial support of Rs 1,000 crore to Uttarakhand for disaster relief, of which Rs. 145 crore was released immediately.

After a preliminary assessment of the extent of the colossal tragedy, the Uttarakhand Cabinet had yesterday decided to revise the norms for relief and rehabilitation by widening the ambit of beneficiaries ranging from small kiosks to ‘dhabas’ to big hotels.

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