The Indian Army on Tuesday joined the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and local administration in a massive rescue and relief operation in Rudraprayag district of Uttaranchal where 26 people, including five of a family, were feared killed following Monday's landslides and flash floods, top police and government officials said.
Director General of Police (DGP) Ashok Kant Sharan said 19 bodies had been recovered.
"Till now, we have recovered 19 bodies from the affected areas and rescue operation by 250 army jawans belonging to the 2nd Garhwal Rifles assisted by the ITBP and the police force is continuing in full swing," Sharan said.
The police chief said 80 to 90 Kedernath-bound pilgrims of the 850 who were stranded between Guptkashi and Gorikund following the landslides, had reached to safety after trekking through the affected areas with the assistance of police personnel.
A major portion of a 14 km long road between Guptkashi and Gorikund has been damaged due to which these areas had been cut off from the rest of the country, Sharan said, adding that 26 houses had been completely damaged and 30 animals had perished in the landslides.
The five members of a family, who were among those killed, were identified as 50-year-old Shivlal, his wife, two daughters and a son. The bodies were recovered from their flattened house on Monday, DGP Sharan said.
Officials said the landslides, triggered by heavy rains, had cut off at least four villages in Vyomguard and Fata areas of the district.
State Chief Secretary Madhukar Gupta said the government has urged the air force and the army to employ helicopters to airlift the stranded pilgrims.
Gupta said despite heavy rains in these areas, the relief and rescue operations were continuing on a war-footing and the government had provided 40 tents for the affected people.
Gupta and other top officials went on an aerial survey of the affected areas and described the situation as 'very precarious' as all road and telecommunications links had been snapped.
Uttaranchal Chief Minister Nityanand Swami has expressed shock over the tragedy and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 20,000 each to those killed.
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