Dehradun: Amid the devastation left by the natural calamity in Uttarakhand, a flame of hope still flickers on in the hearts of some distraught relatives who are conducting a door to door search for their loved ones in the worst-hit Kedarghati area.
Their prolonged wait since the June 17 deluge has failed to dampen their hopes of reuniting with their loved ones alive.
Holding the pictures of their missing family members and friends in their hands, they are searching for them from door to door in villages of the Kedarghati valley.
Even Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna`s announcement that people who went missing after the tragedy will be presumed dead if they don`t surface by tomorrow has failed to deter them.
A visit to Phata Bazar in Kedarghati brings you face to face with many such people roaming around with the pictures of their missing relatives.
Be it Anant Kulkarni from Maharashtra`s Ahmednagar who lost 35 members of his team in the calamity or Pune resident Hemant Kulkarni, who lost track of 24 of his friends after the tragedy, all of them have a common tale to tell.
Alok and Ashish Pandey, two brothers from a village near Kapilvastu in Nepal are camping in Rudraprayag since Friday.
Their parents were in Kedarnath on June 17 when the calamity struck.
The elderly couple were holding each other`s hand when the deluge occurred but the stampede it triggered separated them. Their mother reached home but their father is still missing.
They have searched for him in every hospital, dharamshala and ashram of Dehradun, Rishikesh, Haridwar and Shrinagar but to no avail.
"The hope of reuniting with our father in one of these villages has brought us to Kedarghati," says Alok.
This is the plight of the kin of visitors who came from
outside the state to pay obeisance at Kedarnath and went missing after the tragedy but similar is the tale of those locals whose loved ones were engaged in tourism related activities and businesses at the Himalayan shrine and are yet to be traced.
In Bhiri village of Kedarghati, distraught women of Asharhu Lal`s family sit with their children in a huddle.
Three of Asharhu`s four sons who used to ferry pilgrims to Kedarnath and back on mules have been missing since the tragedy.
Having lost the bread winning members of the family, they have no means of livelihood left.
The youngest of the three sons had married only six months back. His newly-wed bride is constantly looking into the void, waiting for her husband.
There are dozens of families in affected villages which have lost all their male members after the tragedy.
Side by side are the tales of bodies lying still in Kedarghati. These people lost their battle with death but went down fighting, says a police officer on his return from Kedarghati.
The whole valley with bodies scattered here and there bears signs of the struggle the dead put up before finally giving in, says Rajendra Bhandari, a member of the team of police personnel sent for removal of debris in Kedarghati and disposal of bodies.
Bodies of a young couple found on the banks of Mandakini and a half made raft lying a distance away seems to tell the tale of their determined struggle in the face of death, says a police officer.
It seems that the couple in their 30s fled from Junglechatti to save their life when the disaster struck but were swept by the deluge to the banks of the river where they collected logs of wood from the damaged wooden kiosks and tried to make a raft but breathed their last before they could use it to escape from the jaw of death.
Bodies lying in deep gorges near Junglechatti and over high cliffs seemed to tell similar tales of the people`s struggle with death.
Some bodies were found lying on tarpaulin sheets covered with blankets suggesting that they died of hunger or thirst while waiting for the rescue teams which took a few days to reach the affected people after the tragedy.