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Blog: In Uttarakhand disaster, images of remarkable heroism

Blog: In Uttarakhand disaster, images of remarkable heroism
Gochar, Uttarakhand:  In a story replete with images of death and devastation, the one image that really struck me was of life. A picture that I saw today of a burly Sikh jawan clinging on to a baby - a baby who just moments earlier had been brought across a river in spade.

There were other images as well from far flung areas which the media cannot access. Another image I saw was of a jawan with a baby strapped to his chest as he rapelled across a torrential river. The story here in Uttarakhand now is a story of saving as many lives as possible while the weather is still good.

If the weather deteriorates over the next couple of days, then rescue efforts will be hampered severely. And children like these, many of whom are stuck in some of the most far-flung parts of the state, will remain stranded indefinitely.

Helicopter operations continue to be a lifeline in this particular area. What we are seeing now are helicopter operations at a war footing. Dozens of helicopters of the army and the air force have been deployed and the Gochar air field, which is an advanced landing ground, is reminiscent of a war zone where helicopters are landing every five minutes with casualties and pilgrims who have been rescued from some of the worst affected areas.

The army says that according to their own Met services there will be no rain in the next couple of days. And that is the window of hope that everyone over here is counting on. Helicopter operations need to continue for as long as possible because that is the only way of getting out the stranded even now.

But there was some good news today as well. Road links which are the lifeline of this entire region and roads which were snapped because of the heavy rain and the torrential floods have been restored in some places. Some of these areas include road access in the Kedar valley region which means that the pressure on the helicopters to bring in casualties moves down substantially. People can now be evacuated by road. But that is easier said than done since only light motor vehicles are being allowed on some of these roads.

It has to be said that the efforts of army engineers and the other personnel including the paramilitary forces in somehow organizing bridges across some of the rivers where bridges have already been destroyed is extremely commendable, it is almost unbelievable.

But the big question is how long before these bridges, these culverts, these roads are restored. Because without these road links it is impossible to survive in any of these areas in Uttarakhand.

As I sign off today there is a bit of a reality check for me. We tried to reach as far long as possible from the Rudraprayag region, but we too have been stranded like so many others. Road links going up north to the Kedarnath region are just about impossible and we have had to pause our journey for the moment until we take a back route on a dusty track, which could take us 24 hours to reach Gaurikund and the Kedarnath area.

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