Uttarakhand pilgrims from State recount ordeal; 14 from Maddur, Mangalore still missing

The last batch of 51 pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand returned to safety here Tuesday evening. But the less fortunate family of 13 from Maddur and one pilgrim from Mangalore remain untraceable.

After landing at the Bengaluru International Airport, Information Minister Santosh Lad, who had accompanied the batch on their return flight, said the government had submitted a memorandum to the Uttarakhand government on the matter.

“Efforts are still on to rescue them, and we believe they are stuck in the Kedarnath range.”

The Maddur family includes three children aged five, 10 and 11, and six women.

Till date, the government had brought back 450 Karnataka pilgrims, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, adding that the actual number initially stranded there was close to 1,000.

Tearful reunions

At the airport, emotions ran high as anxious family members strained to catch a glimpse of their loved ones, returning after what most described as an “unforgettable ordeal”.

Most had spent at least a week in some ashrams in Badrinath, without food, electricity and water, until they were taken to rescue camps.

Geeta B. from Bangalore said their team of 14 was all set to move upwards towards Kedarnath when it started pouring.

The deluge that followed left them stranded in an ashram. The food and supplies lasted them three days, after which they went hungry. “There was no electricity, and we didn't know what was going to happen. In our entire group, we only had one working phone.”

Avyacharya (65) from Raichur said his group was stuck in a hall the whole week. They were cut off from most services, including phones and water. “Local dealers simply hiked prices, charging up to Rs. 4,000 for a gas cylinder. It was extremely tough.”

Many of them thanked the government team for the amenities at the rescue camp, and for helping them return safely. Anil Bakshi, a software engineer from IBM, who spent the last 10 days in Uttarakhand helping with rescue operations, said the Uttarakhand government had “mismanaged the situation”. He went there to rescue his stranded family, but ended up helping others also.