Uttarakhand: Near Kedarnath temple, helicopter lands with firewood for mass-cremation

Uttarakhand: Near Kedarnath temple, helicopter lands with firewood for mass-cremation
Gauchar:  In snatches of rare good weather today, military helicopters reached some parts of Uttarakhand devastated by rain and landslides, and moved people who have been stranded for days to safety.

The whirring of those rotors has been a soundtrack of hope and wait for thousands who were caught in the early and vengeful monsoon that struck the hilly state on the night of June 15.

Today, the helicopters took on a new and grim task -to drop truck-loads of firewood, ghee and other material needed for the mass-cremations that will begin when the rain stops in  Kedarnath, which was the epicentre of the disaster.   

Bodies are decomposing, senior disaster management official KN Pandey told news agency AFP. "Under no circumstances can we allow an outbreak of an epidemic," he said.

At least 600 bodies were found buried in silt in and around the 1000-year-old Kedarnath temple, one of Hinduism's most revered pilgrim sites.  Last weekend, a wall of water came tearing down the hillsides with car-sized boulders in tow. The actual temple was not damaged, but a part of its compound wall was washed away and debris is strewn all around.

In the town of Gauchar, which is the centre of rescue and relief operations, authorities are making arrangements to send a dozen Hindu priests to Kedarnath.

A police official in-charge of organising the cremations said belongings and documents recovered from bodies will be collected to help with identification and DNA samples will also be collected.

So far the army has rescued about 90,000 people from hundreds of villages and small towns hit by the floods. Entire towns were flattened by landslides that were followed by floods. Roads were washed away and telecommunication links snapped, cutting off many parts of the state.
Story First Published: June 25, 2013 17:08 IST