Zee Media Bureau
Dehradun: It’s tragedy of gigantic proportions. The Kedarnath valley in Uttarakhand was completely devastated after unprecedented flash floods hit the area and other parts of the hill state.
The valley is in ruins following the unprecedented havoc wreaked by the overflowing Mandakini River. The entire 14-kilometre trekking route from Gaurikund to Kedarnath via Ram Bada has borne the brunt of nature’s fury; a massive loss of life and property is feared.
Miraculously, the Kedarnath temple was left untouched. Among the 12 Jyotirlingas, the Kedarnath shrine, situated at an altitude of 3,593 metres (11,760 feet) in Rudraprayag district, is among the most revered Hindu pilgrimage sites and is visited by lakhs of people every year during the Char Dham Yatra. The yatra has been suspended and some reports claimed that it will take at least two years to bring the area back to normalcy.
List of rescued people
Over 62,000 pilgrims and tourists are still stranded in calamity-hit Uttarakhand while 11,000 have been rescued. The toll in the havoc caused by the flash foods and cloudbursts now stands at 150.
PM Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chief Sonia Gandhi this evening undertook the aerial survey of the temple town of Kedarnath in Uttarakhand where the swollen Mandakini River has washed away houses and hundreds of people are reported missing.
Ahead of their visit, the Prime Minister and Congress president were briefed about the extensive damage caused by heavy monsoon rains, flash floods and cloudburst in Uttarakhand and the relief and rescue operation being carried out there.
According to Shinde, personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Army have together managed to rescue 11,000 of the stranded pilgrims and tourists in Uttarakhand, the worst hit in the heavy rains.
He said the ITBP has rescued 6,400 pilgrims at Joshimath and put them up in camps. "Fourteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are working in the area," he said. "Five thousand pilgrims have been rescued by the Army, while over 62,000 pilgrims are still stranded in Uttarakhand," the Home Minister added.
"So far 11,000 stranded pilgrims have been rescued," he said. While reports point to a toll of over 150, the Home Minister said he could confirm the death of 69 people.
Aerial pictures of the area show massive devastation with several hotels and shops damaged by the floods. Officials say that the death toll may rise significantly once water recedes and relief teams are able to access the affected areas.
The Indian Air Force has pressed its chopper into service to air lift the survivors to safety at Guptkashi and Fata. More helicopters are being pressed into service on the urging of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said Shinde.
While five MI-17 choppers of the Indian Air Force have already been deployed to rescue stranded people, on the Prime Minister`s request 12 more helicopters are being pressed into service, Shinde informed reporters.
Meanwhile, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has also been deployed as in many places entire stretches of mountain roads have caved in or been washed away. The BRO is trying to create pagdandis (pathways) for those stranded and for the rescu teams to continue the relief work. Food packages are being dropped by choppers in many flooded areas and local doctors have been asked to tend to the people, he added.
Kedar-Badri Temple Committee chief Ganesh Godiyal was quoted as saying that about 300 pilgrims who had taken shelter inside Kedarnath temple have survived. While 20 temple staff are among hundreds of others, who were present in the precincts of the temple, are missing even as rescue operations are being conducted on a war footing.
The major cause of devastation of Kedarnath town is said to be the breaking of the Kedar Dome, a glacier-like body that led to a rupture in the Charbari lake reservoir.
Relief works are underway elsewhere in the state too. Chamoli Additional District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar said 1,500 pilgrims and locals have been evacuated so far from Ghanghariya, Duendhar and Pulna from near Hemkund Sahib in the district to Joshimath relief camps.
With the improvement in weather many more stranded pilgrims are likely to be evacuated to safety by the evening, he said, adding evacuation of pilgrims from Badrinath is next on their agenda where 12,000 persons are still stranded.
With Agency inputs