‘Ample announcements were made by authorities about deteriorating weather condition’; Many still continued with onward journey or went ahead with pilgrimage or otherwise got stuck.
A freelance human resources consultant who was in Uttarakhand when the flash floods took place has claimed that ample announcements were made by the administration about the weather deteriorating but few paid heed and changed their travel plans like she did, well before the deluge claimed numerous lives and left thousands stranded.
“I was in the hills from June 14 to June 18 as part of a 15-member group. Once the announcements were made on June 15 evening that the weather was deteriorating and Kedarnath will be closed, we took a U-turn from Gaurikund,” said Brinda Balakrishnan, who was travelling in a tempo traveller at that point.
The decision proved a wise one as many who continued with the onward journey or decided against returning due to religious beliefs or otherwise got stuck.
“Some decided to keep going because they felt the pilgrimage will get spoilt or just because they were in their own vehicles and it was not easy to turn around on the road,” she said, adding that many also went ahead with the journey because the warning did not say anything about roads ahead being closed indefinitely.
Certain Sikh groups also announced to the people along the way that the weather was becoming unpredictable, said Ms. Balakrishnan, who was reached Srinagar on June 16 only to be told that Badrinath was closed.
“The announcements were coming in regularly, but not many were paying heed. Also our cell phones, particularly those on BSNL or Airtel networks, were working continuously.”
Ms. Balakrishnan also added the helpful locals were there to give proper guidance when the crowds began swelling.
Ms. Balakrishnan’s group, which primarily comprised family members from her maternal side, had booked through the Garhwal Vikas Mandal.
They returned to Kotdwar, from where they were put in a bus to Haridwar, which they reached via Pauri Garhwal as the road on the direct route had caved in.
Along the way they had to wait for nearly two-and-a-half hours at one place to cross a landslip and also faced problems due to lack of water and toilets. But the entire group reached Haridwar safely.
“In hindsight, I believe we learnt a lot during this trip.”
Keywords: Uttarakhand floods, flash floods, landslips, Uttarakhand landslides, Himalayan ecosystem, Char Dham yatra, Uttarakhand rescue, disaster management, Indian Army rescue, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Rudraprayag, Pauri, Himalayan rivers, National Disaster Relief Force