Pilgrims who were rescued from Uttarakhand and reached Chennai appreciated the efforts of the Indian Army and the arrangements made by the Tamil Nadu government for their safe transit.

Some of the devotees from the city who returned home on Saturday and Sunday, relived their harrowing experience following the cloud burst and flash floods in Kedarnath.

S. Govindaraj (60) and his wife G. Devika (52) who left Srirangam on June 11 recalled their miraculous escape from the floods and said they were caught in the middle of their return journey from the Kedarnath temple on June 17. “It was a sheet of water everywhere and we had to rely on biscuits and water for four days till Thursday,” they said. They heaved a sigh of relief after the Army personnel rescued them by a helicopter and left them at Phata helipad on Friday from where they reached Haridwar. From there, they were brought to the Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi on Saturday.

After medical examination, they were flown to Chennai on Sunday. They formed part of the 37-member team from Tamil Nadu who were on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath. Twenty of them had been rescued so far, they said.

“But for the timely intervention and immediate action by the Army and the State government, they would not have returned home,” said their son Mallikarjun, an engineer of BHEL in Pudukottai, who received them at the Chennai Airport on Sunday.

For others, a timely alert about a landslide sounded by authorities prevented pilgrims in continuing their journey to Kedarnath. “Thanks to the warning, we returned to Sitapur on June 16 where we stayed for four days. There was no power supply nor any communication for days till the Army came to our rescue by temporarily restoring the road,” says S. Pushpavanam, secretary, Consumer Protection Council, Tamil Nadu.

Mr. Pushpavanam, who had undertaken the journey with his wife, appreciated the State government’s endeavour in rescuing the stranded pilgrims and for making arrangements for their safe return. An official in the rank of Revenue Divisional Officer was in charge of our baggage at the Airport in New Delhi, he said.

Another batch of devotees from Tiruchi had returned home on their own.

Navaneethan and his family members from Rockfort area appreciated the efforts taken by their jeep driver in the ghats. Along with his father Rangan, mother Pakkiam and wife Sadhana, he had hired a jeep to visit three temples at Rishikesh. They had planned to travel about 1,500 km on the ghat road but were caught in the rains during their return from Kedarnath on June 16.

“We were on the jeep for about four days,” he says. They were all gripped with fear even as hundreds of buses, cars, and jeeps were stranded on the ghat road for several days. Criss-crossing water courses at several places en route posed another problem, he said.

Thanjavur: Seventeen pilgrims, who went from Thanjavur to Kedarnath, retuned home on Saturday night. Many of them described their escape as re-birth after the monsoon nightmare they had during the yatra following the floods in Uttarakhand.

M.S. Anand, an advocate of Thanjavur, who went with his wife Senthamarai on a pilgrimage, said it was a spine chilling experience. “We left Thanjavur on June 4 and on June 15 after visiting Kedarnath en route we stayed at Rampur. Sudden floods and landslides occurred much to our shock and water was engulfing the highland. Even buses parked on the parking area were washed away. The landslides occurred on the opposite side forcing us to stay in the bus for five days.”

On the fifth day, Army personnel using bulldozers cleared the landslides and made way for the buses to move. “After we travelled a small distance, our buses could not move again and hence had to stay in a thick forest for a night. The Army cleared the way next day and we travelled nearly 160 km to reach Rishikesh. The Tamil Nadu police contacted us and informed that Tamil Nadu government had made arrangements for our safe arrival to Tamil Nadu. Jakkaiyan, Special Representative, Tamil Nadu Government in New Delhi, contacted me and assured all help. When we reached Delhi, we were taken to Tamil Nadu House and looked after well. We reached Chennai on June 22 by flight and from there came to Thanjavur by bus,” Mr. Anand said.

Forty three pilgrims from Kumbakonam returned safely.