83 pilgrims from all over the state were flown in by Air India

V. Subhashini, who had waited restlessly for nearly an hour, jumped the barricade, and broke down as she hugged her mother S. Renuka Devi who walked out from the Chennai airport. She was among the many relatives of pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand for whom the heart-wrenching uncertainty finally ended on Friday when a group of 83 arrived from New Delhi.

Wiping away her tears, Renuka recalled the fearsome destruction wrought by the Alaknanda River. “The lodge we lived in, the horse we rode, the road we travelled through were all washed away one after another. It’s a rebirth for us,” she said. At least one person from Villupuram died of natural causes, probably due to inclement weather and another was washed away during the floods in the hill State.

The pilgrims set out on June 8 from Chennai Central, and reached Kedarnath on Saturday via New Delhi, Agra, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Gowrikund, Haridwar and Rishikesh Saturday.

“We were marooned for hours together. Initially, we were able to talk to relatives but soon, our phones ran out of charge,” said V. Sivaprakasam, the tour operator from Guduvancherry.

“We did not sleep until Thursday night,” said K.Rajammal of Saidapet.

From Monday to Thursday, the group survived on biscuits and bread and paid Rs. 100 for a bottle of drinking water and Rs. 10 for a mug of water at a toilet.

They finally managed to make it to Haridwar on Thursday from where they travelled to New Delhi in two mini-buses arranged by State government officials and stayed at Tamil Nadu House there. They arrived here at 1.15 p.m. and were received by Transport Minister V. Senthil Balaji and Tourism Minister S.P. Shanmuganathan.

Among those who arrived, 67 are from Chennai, nine from Virudhunagar, three from Krishnagiri, two from Tirunelveli and one each from Coimbatore and Thanjavur districts.

Buses arranged by the State government dropped them at their residences in various parts of the city. Those travelling to other districts were dropped at CMBT in Koyambedu.

Four persons, who were lodged at Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi, have left for Chennai, 119 persons are still in New Delhi and 160 more will reach there by Friday night, said a government official.