Survivors bring back harrowing tales from the hills

Haridwar/Lucknow, June 19 (IANS) Akash and his three friends watched in horror as a rain swollen river in Uttarakhand washed away their car, leaving them stranded.

On their return to Haridwar, they said they escaped the nature’s fury by taking shelter at a private helipad.

All four feel they have had a second birth. At one time, they had given up all hopes of surviving the rampaging floods in Uttarakhand that have claimed over 100 lives and affected thousands.

“We saw houses and hotels collapse like they were made of cardboard,” recounted another survivor of a group from Lucknow that went to Kedarnath, one of the worst hit places in Uttarakhand.

Even as the authorities, with help from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the army, stepped up rescue efforts, survivors from last week’s heavy rains, landslides and cloud bursts have returned with harrowing tales.

One survivor recounted how a girl walking ahead of them was suddenly swept away in the rains. Apparently, more than 100 people, mostly pilgrims, remain stranded near Sonprayag.

Shailendra Prakash Singh, another survivor, says the destruction was so sweeping that he was left only with the clothes he was in. Everything else he had was lost.

Rampati Ram Tripathi, former Uttar Pradesh president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is trapped in a Garhwal tourism guest house in Uttarkashi. Efforts are on to rescue him.

He has told party colleagues that he has been stranded since June 15 after returning from Gangotri. According to him, all major roads have been wiped off the map.

“There is no help coming our way,” he complained. “There is no power, no food. All that we have is shelter at this place,” he said on telephone.

There are more than 20 people from Lucknow and over 30 families from Uttar Pradesh who have been caught in the disaster in Uttarakhand, informed sources said.

Many were lucky to telephonically alert their families before losing the mobile network.

Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government confirmed Wednesday that bodies of two policemen and three ITBP troopers who were washed way earlier have been recovered.

Director General of Police Satyavrat said the force might have lost more people.

“Policemen posted at a temporary police station in Rambada are still untraced and we don’t know what has happened to them,” he said. Rambada is located on the route to Kedarnath.

Several private companies and social groups like the Haridwar-based Gayatri Parivaar are taking care of people coming back from Uttarkashi and Rudraprayag.

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