Mamata sends ministers on rescue mission to Uttarakhand

Mamata sends ministers on rescue mission to UttarakhandKolkata, June 18 - West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Tuesday that two state ministers will be sent to Uttarakhand to oversee the rescue of around
1,700 pilgrims from the state left stranded following heavy rains and landslides.

"We have taken the decision to send Madan Mitra and Rachpal Singh on an evening flight to Delhi today (Tuesday). There they will link up with Bhaskar Khulbe and proceed to Uttarakhand. They will coordinate among themselves," Banerjee told reporters here.

"Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra is also continuously coordinating. We are in constant touch with the distressed pilgrims there," Banerjee said.

Heavy and continuous rains have hit life in several north Indian states and wrought havoc in Uttarakhand where death toll has reached 40. Thousands remain stranded in the state after landslides, according to officials.

With more rains expected, the situation is likely to worsen in the hill state. Flood warnings have also been issued in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

"Around 1,700 tourists from Bengal are stranded in Uttarakhand. We have asked them (Uttarakhand government) to open an alternative route to Karnaprayag which will enable the pilgrims to return. We have also asked them to arrange for helicopters. Besides arrangements will be made for their shelter and food," Banerjee said.

The chief minister added that in times of crisis politics should be kept away.

"Let us not do politics in times of crisis. We must stand together and support them (the Congress-led Uttarakhand government)," Banerjee said.

Highlighting her commitment to the plight of distressed tourists, Banerjee said she chose to stay back due to the forthcoming Panchayat polls.

"In 1992, when there was a similar situation in Uttarkashi I had gone there and had come back with the stranded pilgrims. Because of the impending panchayat elections, I am staying back," she said.

The chief minister, who is in "constant touch" with her Uttarakhand counterpart Vijay Bahuguna, promised to "contribute in any measure" to facilitate rescue of residents in the disaster-affected areas.

"Uttarakhand chief minister has intimated us that Badrinath is fine whereas Kedarnath and some other places are in danger.

"If they need any help from West Bengal, then we will lend a hand. We will stand by and contribute in any measure we can," Banerjee added.

The rains, which began Saturday night, have continued for the past two days. The Met department said the rains in the month of June have since broken an 88-year record. Between Saturday and Sunday, Dehradun received 220 mm of rainfall, and by evening another 220 mm. (IANS)

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