Forty bodies of flood victims were today recovered from Haridwar, taking the toll in the rain fury to 190 as operations to rescue over 9000 stranded in Kedarnath and Badrinath were stepped up with the deployment of 40 helicopters
As the magnitude of the tragedy continued to unfold, Uttarakhand Principal Secretary Rakesh Sharma said casualty figures can be "shockingly high".
In Haridwar, SSP Rajeev Swaroop said 40 bodies of those killed in the flash floods and incessant rains have been found. Rescuers were focusing on rain-ravaged Kedarnath area where 250 people are stranded before shifting focus to Badrinath where 9000 people are stuck, officials said.
Terming it as the "worst tragedy of the millennium", Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat said,
"It will take us at least five years to recover from the extensive damages caused to the entire infrastructure network in the Kedarnath area which is the worst affected".
Pilgrims being rescued by defence personnel. Photo: AFP/ITBP
Rawat, who had visited the Kedarnath area, said that he spent five hours there and was shocked to see the extent of the damage caused to the buildings and area adjoining the shrine.
"The centre of faith has turned into a burial ground. Bodies are scattered in the area. Only the sanctum sanctorum is intact," he said.
Thousands of people were still said to be stranded in various parts of the state that was hit by cloudburst and floods in the upper reaches that left several hundreds of homes, rest houses and buildings in ruins and thousands of people missing.
In Himachal Pradesh, rescue operations were on to evacuate stranded people in rain-hit Kinnaur district with two dedicated choppers pressed into service even as reports of more people stuck in interior Pooh, Nako and Kaza areas poured in.
Two IAF choppers and one state chopper had been deployed for evacuating the stranded but one chopper has developed some problem. "So far over 550 people have been airlifted but the number is steadily increasing with reports of more people struck at different places, pouring in.
Helicopter sorties have also been planned for Pooh, Nako, Kaza and other interior places," officials said.