Gauchar, Uttarakhand, June 25: Helicopter rescue operations to evacuate around 9000 stranded people today picked up pace after rains and fog in the morning delayed the mission in calamity-hit Uttarakhand where the death toll mounted to 822 with 127 more bodies recovered from Kedarnath.
Fresh incidents of landslips were also reported from Tehri district in which a woman and a child were killed.
Wood and funeral rites items are being airlifted to Gauchar and from there to Kedarkund, for mass cremation of bodies lying in the holy town.
Foggy and overcast conditions in Dehradun had delayed take off by choppers at Sahasradhara helipad and Jolly Grant Airport but air rescue operations resumed with improvement in the weather.
Four choppers made sorties to Badrinath today and evacuated 60 people, officials said.
Official sources that 127 more bodies were recovered since yesterday from Kedarnath area. At least 15 bodies of flash-flood victims were found floating in Ganga in different districts of Uttar Pradesh including Muzaffarnagar, Bulandshahr and Bijnore, taking the toll in the tragedy to 822.
In Patna, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that he had asked the Uttarakhand government not to allow any VIP to land in the flood-ravaged areas to avoid any disturbance to relief work.
He said that situation was improving in Uttarakhand and relief work was going on at a faster pace. Many devotees have been evacuated from Kedarnath and Badrinath, he said adding 37 helicopters were ferrying stranded pilgrims to safety. Amid fear of an epidemic, massive efforts were on to conduct the last rites of those killed in Kedarnath.
Truck loads of dry Deodar wood and ghee have been despatched to Kedarnath and the efforts are on to conduct mass ritual cremation of bodies strewn over the premises after their identification, post mortem and DNA preservation formalities, sources at the state police headquarters here
With the bodies already beginning to putrefy, the air is laden with a stench giving rise to fears of an epidemic outbreak in affected areas.
The state government has asked DIG police headquarters Sanjay Gunjyal and DIG Garhwal range Amit Sinha to ensure that the cremation process, which could not begin yesterday due to rains, starts today at Kedarnath which was the worst hit by the calamity.
A 42-member team of forensic experts and scientists had already left for Kedarnath yesterday to conduct the post mortem of the bodies and preserve their DNA samples, police sources said.
With rain in the morning hampering rescue operations from Badrinath where the majority of pilgrims remain stranded, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna appealed to their relatives not to run out of patience, saying they are safe with enough supplies of food and and medicines made available to them.
Assuring them that their kin stranded in Badrinath will be evacuated safely at the earliest, he asked them not to worry. There are about five community kitchens being run at the shrine under the supervision of the district administration, he said.
Officials said that search and rescue operation in Kedarnath and surrounding areas was over for all practical purposes.
No more survivors have been found and defence and paramilitary personnel are now wrapping up their mission. "No survivors remain in the jungles around Kedarnath. They have all been brought out," Ravinath Raman, nodal officer of rescue operations in Rudraprayag district said in
In Son Prayag, 25-km from Guptakashi, there were only a handful of NDRF personnel present in the morning. As rescue operations get stretched in the upper reaches of Uttarakhand, the ITBP today decided to send in a fresh contingent of its troops and bring out those tired and exhausted.
The paramilitary force, according to sources, is replacing close to 45 men with an equal strength in the areas of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Harshil and Gaurikund.