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Uttarakhand Death Toll May Cross Reported 1,000 Mark: Shinde

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The death toll in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand may cross the reported 1,000 mark after the debris is cleared, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Monday.
 
"Reports suggested the toll was around 1000, but it could rise as the debris is cleared," he told reporters after flagging of new PCR vans of Delhi Police at India Gate in New Delhi.
 
Shinde said the authorities will now evacuate victims from the temple-town of Badrinath, adding that rains had hindered the rescue operations by helicopters.
 
"It was raining there (Sunday) and there is rain (Monday) as well. Rains hinder the rescue operations by the helicopters," the Home Minister said.
 
Despite inclement weather, he said the rescue operations were on.
 
The authorities, he said, decided to evacuate people from Kedarnath first because they were in a precarious condition where as those in Badrinath were relatively better placed.
 
"There were arrangements for food and water in Badrinath,"he said.
 
Rains, landlsips hamper rescue operation
Bad weather returned to Uttarakhand Monday with fresh spell of rains and landslips in the higher reaches of Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts grounding rescue operations by choppers in the state where 10,000 survivors are waiting to be evacuated.
 
Not a single chopper has so far been able to take off from Sahasradhara helipad to rescue stranded pilgrims at Badrinath and affected pockets adjacent to it.
 
The same is the situation in Guptkashi and Gauchar from where no helicopter has so far been able to take off because of a thick veil of mist enveloping the area and intermittent rains.
 
Retd Wing Commander Capt R S Brar, who has been entrusted with the task of overseeing air rescue operations in the affected areas, told PTI, "About 5000 people are yet to be evacuated from Badrinath and not even a single chopper has so far been able to take off from Sahasradhara helipad in Dehradun  to rescue stranded pilgrims at the shrine and affected pockets adjacent to it." 
 
"I am myself sitting in an aircraft since this morning waiting for the weather to clear up so that we could start our operations," he said.
 
Reports from Chamoli and Pauri districts said it was raining in the higher reaches hampering chopper operations.
 
The state capital Dehradun was also drenched with rain.
 
Fresh landslips on Badrinath highway has also choked the route.
 
With inclement weather affecting chopper operations, the state government's plans to launch a final combing operation in the worst-hit Kedarnath Valley in search of possible stranded pilgrims in pockets has also hit a roadblock.
 
However, official sources said an IAF chopper has been sent from Gauchar to Badrinath axis to assess the weather and find out whether it would be possible to resume rescue operations in the area where the majority of stranded pilgrims are located.
 
Talking about coordination efforts, NDMA member V K Duggal said in Delhi that "there was some operational issues and I have addressed the same with the officers concerned".
 
(PTI)