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Choppers flown to rain-hit districts of Uttarakhand

PTI 26 Jun 2015, 16:35:43 IST

Dehradun: With the very first spell of monsoon showers damaging nearly half a dozen roads and bridges in Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts, choppers were today flown to the affected areas with a team of senior officials to assess conditions and ensure safety of Chardham pilgrims.

“We have flown a total of seven helicopters to meet requirements, if any, to the affected areas out of which five are stationed in Joshimath and two in Mandakini valley.  

They have been sent primarily to evacuate stranded pilgrims to safety if the need to do so arises,” Uttarakhand Chief Secretary N Ravishankar told PTI.  However, the exact situation of the rain-hit parts of the two districts will be known only when the officials return from those areas, he said.

Just a day after monsoon arrived in Uttarakhand, heavy rains damaged roads and bridges in the two districts yesterday, badly affecting Chardham yatra and restricting movement of thousands of pilgrims bound for the Himalayan shrines.

Chardham yatra and the pilgrimages to Hemkund and Mansarovar are also interrupted due to incessant rains at places and landslides bringing rubble onto the roads and blocking them at a number of points.

The fourth batch of Mansarovar pilgrims has been stopped at Dharchula due to heavy trains continuing there, Pithoragarh District Magistrate Sushil Kumar Sharma said.  

While a vital motor bridge between Sonprayag and Gaurikund was washed away by heavy rains last evening, Badrinath highway remained blocked for the second consecutive day at four points, leaving over 9,000 pilgrims stranded at Badrinath, Hanumanchatti, Pandukeshwar, Govindghat and Ghanghariya, Chamoli District Disaster Managament officer Nandkishore Joshi said.

With heavy rocks and boulders from a hillside blocking Badrinath highway between Joshimath and Vishnuprayag, devotees bound for the Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib and those returning from there have had to take shelter at different places, he said.

Over 5,000 pilgrims who had left for Hemkund Sahib have been stopped at Ghanghariya whereas around 1,200 pilgrims bound for the Sikh shrine have been asked to stay in Govindghat, Joshi said.

About 5,000 pilgrims are in Badrinath waiting for the highway to be restored, he said, adding, the Govindghat gurudwara has been vacated because of the rising waters of the Alaknanda.
Yatris who were staying there have been moved to safe places, he said.

A bridge on the trek route to Hemkund Sahib has also been washed away.

A total of eight motor roads in Chamoli district are also blocked with rubble, affecting traffic, the official said.  

A State Disaster Response Force release said three temporary bridges have been damaged in Chamoli district and a 100-metre road in Sonprayag on way to Kedarnath in Rudraprayag district.

57 members of the fourth batch of Mansarovar yatra pilgrims were stopped at Dharchula base camp, Pithoragarh DM Sushil Kumar Sharma said.

The yatra has not been suspended as yatris who have already reached Gunji or the Chinese side are continuing their pilgrimage but the fourth batch of Mansarovar pilgrims that arrived at Dharchula base camp last evening has been ordered not to move towards the trek route camp at Sirkha as the area is being lashed by heavy rainfall up to 78 mm for the last 24 hours, he said.

However, the weather is improving and we hope the 57 pilgrims of the fourth batch will leave for Sirkha camp tomorrow, Sharma said on phone from Pithoragarh.