Little details forthcoming from counterparts in Uttarakhand, they say
Senior State Government officials were a frustrated lot on Saturday as no information was forthcoming from their Uttarakhand counterparts on the fate of hundreds of people from Andhra Pradesh, stranded in various places on the Char Dham pilgrim circuit.
Adding to everyone’s woes, rescue and relief operations were hampered owing to bad weather. The number of pilgrims evacuated from the upper reaches of the Himalayas came down to a trickle. Officials who spoke to this reporter expressed fear that it might become increasingly difficult to rescue people stranded in inaccessible areas.
As a result, it has become an agonising wait for families awaiting the return of their dear ones. During the last three days those evacuated to Rishikesh, Haridwar and Dehradun are from areas where the road network has been partly restored by the Indian Army.
Officials admit that the death toll could reach alarming levels once rescue teams reach places like Gaurikand, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Uttarkashi and Gangotri.
“We have been getting frantic calls from anxious family members seeking information about missing persons. The information has been passed on to our helpdesks in Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradun but the response from the Uttarakhand administration is lukewarm as they are unable to provide a tally of casualties and missing persons,” Shashank Goel, Resident Commissioner, AP Bhavan, New Delhi told The Hindu on Saturday night. He said the pilgrims, who reached AP Bhavan in the last two days informed that some of their family members are still missing.
Officials monitoring the situation and interacting with the rescued pilgrims said they were undergoing a traumatic experience.
“Many of them have suffered without food and water and fought for their lives till they were rescued by the Army,” a senior official overseeing relief operation in Dehradun said.
In New Delhi, pilgrims from the State arrived at the AP Bhavan in specially-arranged buses and trains. Since Friday night, about 300 pilgrims were provided food and shelter at the facility and issued train tickets for the onward journey to their native places.
Mr. Goel said train reservations were provided to pilgrims in GT Express (40 berths), AP Express (31), Dakshin Express (160), Tamil Nadu Express (30), Bangalore-Rajdhani Express (12) and Swarnajayanthi Express (27). Train tickets were provided to 69 pilgrims, who lost everything on their pilgrimage.