A series of major breakthroughs were achieved by the Army and the Indian Air Force today, catalyzing thereby, the rescue and relief operations in some of the worst flash- flood affected areas of Uttarakhand.
All the 500 people stranded in and around Gangotri have now been evacuated. Barring 25 people, Gagariya on the Hemkund axis has been evacuated. Weather permitting the balance 25 will be evacuated at the earliest. Army troops, skilled in mountain rescue operations, have established contact with more than 1000 persons stranded in mountain folds in Jungle Chatti between Gauri Kund and Rambara on the Kedarnath axis.
Till reports last came in, Army helicopters have evacuated 350 people so far and search operations are continuing. Food and medicines have also been dropped. Two medical teams have now been established at Gauri Kund to treat patients. Besides, a composite relief staging area has been opened at Gauri Kund providing food, water and medicines to the people.
Early in the morning today, dedicated Army teams worked tirelessly to prepare a helipad at Jungle Chatti which facilitated evacuation from one of the most dangerous and inaccessible areas of Kedar valley. This helipad is now being improved to facilitate landing of Dhruv helicopters. Army also constructed two helipads at Gauri Kund.
Army created history in Badrinath valley today when a heli-bridge was created at Govind Ghat to transport pilgrims across the Alaknanda River. Helicopters did shuttle service from either banks of the river as the temporary crossing made earlier had collapsed.
Army today operationalised the foot track between Govind Ghat and Lambagar on Badrinath road. Another column conducting road clearing operations from Badrinath to Lambagar successfully launched a foot bridge over Alaknanda this evening, thus opening the foot route from Badrinath to Govindghat. Road Govindghat to Joshimath is open to vehicular traffic.
Army achieved another milestone on Gangotri axis. All stranded people in Gangotri have been evacuated. Road is now open for light vehicles from Gangotri to Harsil. Due to a series of landslides between Harsil and Uttarkashi, Army is now moving people using ‘Staging Area’ concept. Across all landslides, people are being made to cross on foot and in between any two landslides, vehicles are being used. Two staging areas at Sukhi and Gangnani have been established to provide food and medicines to evacuated people.
Army column reached Barkot on Yamunotri axis today. The column would start evacuating people from Yamunotri by tomorrow. As per the latest data, approximately 700 people are at Yamunotri.
In Tawaghat – Dharchula axis in Pithoragarh district, Army is in the process of establishing link up with approximately 1000 people in Sobala valley and medical teams and food has already been sent there today. Army column evacuated all 45 children who were stranded at Pindari glacier in Bageshwar district. Search operations are on to link up with 10 to 12 people stranded on Sunderdhunga glacier.
Eight columns of Army have also been deployed in 08 districts of North Western UP. 2500 people have been evacuated to safer places in Pilibhit district and 260 people have been moved to safer places near Palwal.
Army has so far deployed 19 medical teams in Uttarakhand with each team led by a doctor. 45 satellite phones have also been deployed in various parts of the state to enable stranded people to contact their families. More than 2300 people used Army communication facilities to talk to their loved ones at home.
Army so far has evacuated 18,500 people and deployed 10,000 soldiers for rescue and relief operations.
In a very innovative, yet daring move, the IAF today established an aviation fuel supply bridge at Dharasu to give greater impetus to rescue operations which were severely restricted due to non availability of aviation fuel.
The first C 130J aircraft landed at Dharasu (a landing ground only 1300 meters long) in the early morning today for the first time despite inclement weather. On landing the aircraft defueled 8000 litres of fuel into an empty bowser which was airlifted yesterday from Sarsawa by a Mi 26 helicopter. With the availability of additional fuel now at Dharasu, the extraction, evacuation and rescue operations have picked up pace and the available helicopters are now able to make more number of trips.
Apart from the carrying fuel to Dharasu, the first C130 J on its return trip carried about 40 and the second about 100 injured and stranded pilgrims to the safer plains of Air Force Station Hindan. An emergency medical centre has been set up at Air Force Station Hindan for the medical check-up of all the arriving tourists for immediate attention.
The first two C 130J aircraft carried fuel to Dharasu while the third is carrying a Medical team of the IAF to attend to sick people at Dharasu itself before they are moved out to safer place.
Having paved the way for fixed wing aircraft landing at Dharasu, the IAF pressed its An 32 aircraft also into action. These aircraft are carrying Disaster Communication equipment vehicle, some more aviation fuel, Sudan pumps for refueling the helicopters and 4200 kgs of bridging equipment of BRO. The heavy lift Mi 26 helicopter will also be airlifting the heavy equipment of BRO to facilitate road repair and construction work.
While the fuel bridging has given impetus to rescue operations, increased flying activity in the narrow valleys is posing a new challenge to traffic management and safe flying. IAF has inducted additional personnel to ensure smooth planning, coordination and execution of flying operations, be it Air Force, Army or civilian operators.
Today since morning, till 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the IAF has flown about 149 sorties in which 26700 kgs of load and 1355 passengers were airlifted.
In all, the IAF towards ‘Op Rahat’, has flown 768 sorties in which 103350 kgs of load has been dropped/landed and 5347 passengers airlifted.
The IAF is committed to using all the available resources to speed up the rescue operations, especially in the face of bad weather forecast by the Indian Met Department in next 36 to 48 hours.