Dehradun, June 24: The army and security forces battled renewed rains on Monday to evacuate many of the 13,000 people still stranded in the hills of Uttarakhand where devastating floods have killed hundreds.
With the rains hitting much of the helicopter operations, soldiers took to rescuing the stranded men, women and children by foot in a coordinated operation involving the state and central authorities.
Fresh landslides occurred on the key road linking Rishikesh and Rudraprayag, hitting rescue efforts. But the route ahead to Joshimath was open.
Officials said some 1,400 people awaited evacuation at Harsil, 50 at Dharali and 60 at Jhala in Uttarkashi and another 5,000 at Badrinath, near the worst-hit area.
A massive cloudburst near the revered Kedarnath shrine and the humongous floods that followed ravaged the hills of Uttarakhand over 10 days ago, causing a terrible calamity.
With vast stretches of mountain roads cut off, thousands of locals as well as pilgrims got stranded in various hills.
Monday's inclement weather led to the abortion of many sorties of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The army carried on rescue operations on the route from Badrinath to Joshimath and from Harsil to Uttarkashi.
In Badrinath, 281 people were moved by land late Sunday after the construction of a Burma bridge across the swollen Alaknanda. The army set up a heli bridge at Lam Bagar in addition to a foot bridge.
Two army and three civil helicopters ferried people from Badrinath. Eight hundred were moved towards Joshimath, both by air and on foot.
"Our aviators challenged the weather in the Badrinath valley to transport people," an officer from the army's Central Command told IANS.
In Uttarkashi, MI-17 helicopters made 16 sorties to take out 402 people from Harsil. Another 683 people reached Uttarkashi by foot.
Knowing that food is in short supply, the army has stocked food, water and medicines at Sukhi and Gagnani. Food was distributed at Govindghat and Joshimath.
Most big sized army helicopters were grounded for most part of Monday.
In the Kedarnath area, special troops from the mountaineering unit continued to look for survivors between Jungle Chatti and Rama Bara areas.
More rains have been forecast in the coming days. On Monday, rains battered many areas including Dehradun, Chamoli and Paudi where relief operations have been halted.
A cloudburst in Malan village in Paudi has devastated many houses though no casualties have been reported.
Besides the army, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are also evacuating the stranded.
The government says 557 bodies have been found. Some officials and rescuers have said the fatalities may run into hundreds, if not thousands.
The rains have cut off communication to Tilwada and Gaurikund, where more than 500 people are stuck. Efforts to evacuate them were aborted due to heavy rains.
Rains are also lashing Guptkashi, Harsil and Badrinath - places where thousands are still stranded. Water levels have again risen in the Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers.
In New Delhi, aid agency Save the Children said thousands of children and women stuck in Uttarakhand needed immediate medical attention and food.
Help is pouring into Uttarakhand from all over the country.
In New Delhi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi flagged off trucks carrying food, medicines, clothes and blankets.
In Himachal Pradesh' Dharamsala, hundreds of Tibetan exiles offered prayers for those who died in that state and Uttarakhand.