President Pranab Mukherjee condoled the death of personnel of the IAF, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and National Disaster Response Force in a helicopter crash during rescue operations at Kedarnath in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.
"In this moment of grief, I offer my most profound condolences to the grieving families of the victims. I salute the courage and supreme sacrifice of the heroes who laid down their lives in the line of duty," the President said in his condolence message to Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne.
"I am proud of the exemplary manner in which the IAF has responded to the challenge of rescuing and saving thousands of lives in the face of the fury of nature and at a time of grave crisis. The IAF's determination to keep moving on irrespective of the tragedy and until the last stranded pilgrim is rescued is in the finest traditions of the Indian Armed Forces," he said.
The President said, "Please inform the brave Air Warriors engaged in operations in Uttarakhand that my thoughts and prayers are with them. Kindly also convey my sincere words of sympathy to the families of the deceased personnel. I pray to the almighty to give the bereaved families the strength and fortitude to bear this irreparable loss."
The sophisticated IAF helicopter crashed in bad weather near Gaurikund in Uttarakhand during rescue operations, killing 20 on board -- five from IAF, six from ITBP and nine from NDRF. 12 bodies have been recovered so far.
The dead include five IAF officials while the identity of others is being ascertained, they said. The five IAF personnel were a Wing Commander, two Flight Lieutenants, a Junior Warrant Officer and a Sergeant.