12 more bodies found, task force set up for combing operations

DEHRADUN, June 14: As the first anniversary of the flash floods which claimed thousands of lives in Uttarakhand approaches fast, authorities recovered 12 more skeletal remains and cremated them in Kedar valley today.

“Twelve skeletal remains were recovered from Junglechatti area on way to Kedarnath shrine last night which were cremated today after DNA sampling and other formalities,” Rudraprayag District Magistrate Raghav Langar said.

Now, the total number of skeletal remains found and disposed of in the area this season has gone up to 21, he said adding the combing operations resumed in search of bodies in the middle of March this year will continue.

Five bodies were found in Junglechatti on June 11 while four more were recovered earlier after the resumption of combing operations in areas close to Kedarnath, the DM said.

With just two days to go for the first anniversary of the horrific tragedy, the Uttarakhand Government constituted a special task force to conduct intensive combing operations in the forests adjoining Kedarnath in search of bodies.

IGP Sanjay Gunjyal will be in-charge of the task force which will conduct combing operations over the next 20 days, Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar said.

The District Magistrate said considering the massive scale of devastation caused by the calamity it is not surprising that bodies are still being found in the area.

“About 3,890 people had gone missing after the tragedy who must have scampered into the ridges and forests nearby to save themselves. We disposed of 545 bodies in Kedar valley alone found during combing operations last year which had to be given up with the onset of winter when the area becomes snow-bound.

“Now that the snow has melted, bodies are coming to the surface,” Langar said when asked how these could not be spotted despite lying in ridges along the road.

There is a possibility that more bodies can be found in days to come, he said.

“Bodies may still be trapped under tonnes of rubble in the area and with the onset of monsoon they are likely to come to the surface,” the DM said.

Later, newly-elected BJP MP from Haridwar and former Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank alleged that it was the State Government’s “lack of seriousness” in handling the situation after the calamity due to which the bodies were recovered from Junglechatti area after a year of the tragedy.

“Soon after the disaster struck in June last year, I met the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 18 and told him that thousands of people had escaped into the forests surrounding Trijuginarayan and Rambada to save their lives.

“Something was needed to be done urgently to take care of them. But I was not taken seriously. Now the bodies are tumbling out,” Nishank said.

“I went on foot to Kedarnath along with my supporters at our own peril in September and was shocked to see the poor condition of infrastructure in the area.

“The roads were still breached and the ridges on their sides were scattered with bodies. I tried to draw the attention of the authorities once again to the conditions in the area, but they were too much in a hurry to resume prayers at Kedarnath to listen to me,” he said.

Stressing upon the need to fix responsibility for the “callous indifference” with which the entire matter was handled, he said recovery of bodies a year after the tragedy from easily-accessible areas in Kedar valley was unfortunate. (PTI)

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