DEHRADUN, UTTARAKHAND, INDIA— Bodies of 18 security personnel killed in the Indian Air Force MI-17 helicopter crash while on a relief mission to help those affected by severe floods in Uttarakhand have been found, while two more are yet to be traced.
Chief of India's paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police [ITBP], Ajay Chadha, made the announcement Thursday at a news conference in New Delhi.
The ill-fated chopper was carrying 20 persons on board when it crashed on June 25. It was on a mission to deliver wood for mass cremation of fatal victims at Kedarnath and return with stranded persons.
Briefing the media, Ajay Chadha mentioned that the ITBP has been supervising the rescue operations in co-ordination with the Air Force, Army and the National Disaster Response Force [NDRF].
“So far 18 bodies of security personnel who were there in the helicopter crash have been located of which 13 have already reached Dehradun and then rest should have reached by now. Two bodies are still missing and the search operation is in progress,” said Chadha.
Meanwhile, M Shashidhar Reddy, Vice Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority under which the NDRF functions also addressed the media in New Delhi.
He mentioned about the arrangements being made at Dehradun to the pay respects to the bodies of the chopper crash victims with full military honors.
“Tomorrow a Guard of Honor will be presented to the people who have laid down their lives, to all these 20 personnel belonging to the [forces]. Nine [personnel were] from the NDRF [National Disaster Response Force], six from ITBP and five from Indian Air Force, at 12.30 in Dehradun,” said Vice Chairman of NDMA, Shashidhar Reddy.
Federal Home [interior] Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is expected to reach Dehradun to attend the Guard of Honor being presented to the departed personnel of IAF, ITBP and NDRF.
Reddy said that DNA sampling to identify the dead in Kedarnath region also had commenced before their cremation to avoid possible epidemic breakout with many bodies still lying under the debris.
“Medical teams are doing the DNA sampling operations at Kedarnath,” said Reddy.
The disaster in Uttarakhand - the worst floods India has witnessed since 2008 when about 500 people died in the eastern state of Bihar - has swept away buildings, washed away farmlands and destroyed major roads and bridges.
More than 1,000 people are believed to have died, with an equal number missing, while tens of thousands have been rendered homeless, along with locals, pilgrims and tourists being stranded at various places.
Heavy rains over the last two days have hampered rescue operations by the army and air force, which have been air-lifting survivors.