Change in itinerary to facilitate participation in Saraswati Pushkaram helped many pilgrims escape the Himalayan tragedy

The near and dear of survivors of flash floods and landslips in Uttarakhand broke into dance of joy and jubilation when the special train carrying them from New Delhi reached here on Sunday afternoon. Eighteen survivors, who were part of a 108-member group that went to Char Dham from North Andhra in a rail-cum-bus tour conducted by travel agent Ramakrishna of Vizianagaram, had an emotional reunion with their relatives at the railway station.

All of them had a miraculous escape as they changed their itinerary for visiting the sacred shrines famed for glorious Hindu mythology.

“Instead of normal itinerary of visiting Yamunotri first and later Gangotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath, on our request, the tour operator changed it to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri to enable us to take part in Saraswati Pushkaram. We fulfilled our lifetime ambition of visiting Char Dham as well as escape from the unprecedented floods that wrought havoc in Badrinath and Kedarnath,” P.A. Suryanarayana, a former employee of NALCO, told The Hindu.

Recalling his nightmarish experience, he said it was a fresh lease of life for all the 108 pilgrims, who got stuck in the four buses for three days near Uttarakashi, on their return from Gangotri. Asha Lata, daughter of N. Jagannadha Rao, a retired railway employee, and Jyoti, a housewife, a resident of Kailasapuram, had an emotional reunion with her parents. Despite falling boulders and the fear of death, they escaped unhurt though Damocles Sword hanged over their heads when they were stranded in Uttarakashi. Army personnel came to their rescue and later they were shifted to AP Bhavan in New Delhi.

K. Sundari, who was part of a 16-member gang from Salur, said they were thankful to tour operator Ramakrishna for carrying food material for 10 days in their buses. “All the passengers in the four buses that we engaged did not suffer from shortage of food like other stranded pilgrims,” she said.

Suryanarayana Sarma of Salur, K. Purushottam Rao of Allipuram, and Venkataramana of Isukothota in the city, all priests by profession, said they would conduct special puja to offer their thanks to the Almighty for giving them a fresh lease of life.

Minister for Infrastructure and Investment Ganta Srinivasa Rao, who was present at the station to receive the survivors, said Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy initiated timely measures for carrying out search and rescue operations. Among 4,000 to 5,000 stranded in Uttarakhand, 600 to 700 pilgrims were from Visakhapatnam, he said.

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