The death toll in Uttarakhand tragedy continues to mount with 68 more bodies believed to be of pilgrims who died of cold and starvation while trying to escape the devastating June floods being found on way to Kedarnath shrine.
The badly decomposed 68 bodies, found over the ridges between Garurchatti and Gaurikund, were cremated on Friday just a couple of days after 64 bodies were consigned to flames close to the Himalayan shrine, Inspector General of Police R S Meena said.
"They are being cremated after necessary rituals and other formalities like DNA sampling, Panchnama and preservation of the ornaments worn by them like bangles, rings etc for identification," he said.
Since the start of the third round of combing operations in the worst affected Kedar valley on Tuesday, a total of 166 bodies have been found and cremated, officials said.
Over 200 bodies were extricated in the previous two rounds with sources saying that the official toll has now crossed the 1000 mark. However, NGOs and others have expressed fears that thousands have perished in the tragedy with many not yet found due to inhospitable hilly terrain.
The operation which is likely to continue till Sunday is being carried out by mountaineers and commandos of Uttarakhand police at a height of 12500-13000 ft.
"These bodies seem to be of pilgrims who climbed up the ridges out of fear after the calamity struck in mid June to save themselves and perished due to extreme cold conditions there, hunger and thirst," Meena told PTI.
"We resumed our search on Tuesday for bodies trapped in the higher reaches and ridges of the valley which we could not access earlier due to bad weather.
"If the weather permits, the process will go on till tomorrow in Junglechatti, Rambada, Gaurigaon and Bheembali areas of the valley where we expect to find bodies," he said.
Clear weather has given fresh impetus to the search for bodies, the IG said.
"As of now we are concentrating on areas where bodies are lying visibly on the surface and not on places where they may be lying underneath the debris," Meena said.
The operation to retrieve bodies is on even as Kedranath Shrine is all set resume prayers on September 11.