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Uttarakhand: Kedarnath turns into ghost town, bodies pile up

Source : PTI
Last Updated: Sat, Jun 22, 2013 17:29 hrs
In Pictures: Deadly monsoon rains batter north India

Kedarnath: Hellish rains have turned Kedarnath into a ghost town. Though the outer structure of the temple seems intact, there are bodies piled up outside its gate.

According to reports, rain water gushed into the town from the summit behind the shrine carrying rocks and boulders, destroying everything on its path.

The most ironic part of the tragedy is despite the mobile phone towers remaining intact, there is no electricity due to which people were unable to contact their families as their phones ran out of charge.



IAF has already started rescue operation in the area.

Survivors all praise for Army

Having several brushes with death, survivors of the Himalayan tsunami which left a trail of destruction in Uttarakhand were all praise for Army, which they said has given them a second life.

Sukhvinder Singh, a Ludhiana native who was stuck for eight days on the way to Hemkund Sahib, said, "I was en route to Hemkund Sahib when the disaster struck. The situation was deteriorating with the passage of time...We were bit relieved when Army stepped in. They gave us food and water and helped us in every possible way. Had they not been here, we wouldn't have survived."

Recalling his horrific experiences during the past few days, Aman Bisht, who arranges treks to Hemkund Sahib every year, said, "The road links were shattered and down there we had no bridges left. And even if there was a road somewhere, it was broken. The Army has been very supportive."

Another survivor from Punjab, who was rescued from Joshi Math, said he was able to contact his family only with the help of army personnel.

One Sharan, who along with his family was rescued from Badrinath and brought to Chamouli relief camp yesterday, said, "The situation is pathetic. Had the army not been there, we would not have any chance of coming back ever.

157 of 671 Tamil Nadu pilgrims rescued, reach Chennai

Tamil Nadu government today said 157 of the total 671 pilgrims from the state, stranded in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, have returned home and officials have established contact with over 380 persons still awaiting return.

Following chief minister Jayalalithaa's announcement about taking steps on a war-footing to rescue Tamil Nadu pilgrims stranded there, a team of high-level officials led by the state's Special Representative in Delhi are camping in Uttarakhand and coordinating rescue efforts with officials there, a state government release here said.

Of the 671 pilgrims, 157 of them have been rescued and reached Chennai, while 118 of them have been lodged at Tamil Nadu House in Delhi and they will be sent home by air.

Officials have established contact with 382 people even as efforts are on to rescue 14 others stranded in Gaurikund, it said, adding that one person is yet to be contacted.

Meanwhile, around 100 pilgrims reached Chennai from Delhi today by a government carrier.

No damage to Hemkund Sahib gurdwara: Trust

The Shri Hemkund Sahib Management Trust today said no damage has been caused to the Hemkund Sahib shrine by the rain fury in Uttarakhand and it is safe.

"The main gurdwara building is intact and no loss has been caused to the 'sanctum sanctorum' where the Birs (religious scriptures) is installed," Vice Chairman Narinderjit Singh Bindra said.

He told over phone that he had received information from SHSMT staff from Hemkund Sahib that on the intervening night of June 16 and 17, water level of the lake adjoining the shrine had increased as glacier from the uphill came down.

The staffers have erected embankments of sand bags in and around the gurdwara.

Bindra said the Punjab government and other organisations should coordinate with them before sending relief material and vehicles "so that we could inform them what type of help is required there."

Asked about the rescue operation at Hemkund Sahib and Gurdwara Govind Dham, he said that "all pilgrims would be evacuated by Sunday morning.

Helplines abuzz with frantic calls

Control rooms of various state governments set up here are abuzz with frantic phone calls as relatives of stranded tourists in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand are calling anxiously to find out their whereabouts.

While operations are underway on a war footing to rescue pilgrims stranded in various places, authorities at the control rooms are trying to console anxious victims and family members calling to know the whereabouts of their dear ones.

"We are receiving about 1,000 calls daily, mostly from family members back home who are trying to locate their dear ones," said an official at the control room set-up by the West Bengal Government.

An official of the control room operated by the Chhattisgarh government in Delhi said, "We are sorting out the data of the rescued persons that is provided to us by the Uttarakhand government and the family members are being informed."

Budhaditya Mukherjee, one of the rescued pilgrims from West Bengal, said the ordeal began last Wednesday when he was stuck at the Hanuman Choti on his way to Yamunotri, when incessant rains forced him and a group of pilgrims with him to turn back.

"We saw the hotel near ours crash into the Yamuna as the flood washed away the soil below it," he said.

"There was knee deep slush on the road, but our driver managed to turn around and after travelling till Kharati, we saw police officials trying to make a road using JCBs, as the highway washed off," he added.

He said that the locals and the rescue officials helped us in reaching one of the camps operated by the state government who rescued him and brought him to Delhi, while seniors in his group were provided facilities to travel back to Kolkata.

The rescued pilgrims said that the major problem was shortage of food, though various camps were trying their best to provide it.

"The food in the hotels located in the safer areas are being sold at double the price, while the camps are trying their best to provide food to stranded pilgrims," said Mukherjee, who stayed at a makeshift camp before being shifted to Delhi.

According to officials of the West Bengal control room, a family from Kolkata was rescued along with 200 others this afternoon from a gorge near Kedarnath by the Army.

"There are calls from people of the neighbouring states also, who might not be getting through the helplines set-up by their states, we are trying to help them also," said the official from the West Bengal control room.

"The biggest problem we are facing is that the pilgrims are moving out on their own, so it is difficult to pin-point their location and inform the rescuers," said a control room personnel of the Chhattisgarh government.

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