On a day bad weather caused repeated interruptions, the team entrusted with the herculean task of cleaning up the debris in Kedarnath worked in parts and managed to pull out a decomposed body from within the heap, besides constructing a temporary bridge in the area.
“The team at Kedarnath has not been able to do much since morning as the weather was very bad today, but one body has been recovered (from under the debris),” Uttarakhand DGP Satyavrat Bansal said.
This is the first body to have been extricated from the debris in Kedarnath, as those cremated so far were the ones that were found lying on the ground.
The 61-member team, that fought inclement weather throughout the day, also built a temporary bridge over a canal between the helipad near Kedarnath and the shrine.
“The clearing of debris had begun but went very slow due to bad weather. We can speed up only if the weather improves,” Mr. Bansal said, adding that weather will play a crucial role in the mammoth exercise.
The team, that comprises PWD and police personnel, was sent after a group of experts had withdrawn citing health reasons and fatigue.
So far, 170 bodies found in Kedarghati and other places, including Haridwar, have been cremated with necessary rituals.
Despite bad weather, attempts are on to transport relief to calamity-hit areas in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, officials said.
Whenever the weather gets cleared up, relief material is dispatched to the affected villages, they said here.
An official statement here said 983 quintal of foodgrain, besides 288 LPG cylinders, have been made available to affected people in the villages of Rudraprayag district.
Authorities have also managed to supply 35 quintal of foodgrain and 230 litres of kerosene and diesel to the flood hit village in the district.
Similarly, 6,120 quintal of foodgrain have also been dispatched to 146 villages of Uttarkashi district.
However, while the blockade on the roads caused by the piling of debris is making transportation difficult, low visibility is affecting the air relief operations.
The Goepshwar-Chopta road in Rudraparayg is blocked at several places, while the Rishikesh-Kedarnath national highway is commutable only till Agastyamuni.
Rishikesh Badrinath national highway is blocked by debris near Kameda, Patalganga and Pagalnala in Chamoli district.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said here that opinion of experts will be taken to address the issues of rehabilitation and reconstruction of affected areas.
A meeting of geologists and environmentalists has been convened in this regard on July 21, where a roadmap for redevelopment of rain ravaged areas will be drawn using environment-friendly methods, he told reporters on Saturday.
Temple committee team yet to reach Kedarnath
Bad weather has also prevented temple committee’s 15-member team, which is supposed to take part in the clean-up work, to reach the Kedarnath area.
This may also delay the beginning of formal puja in the revered shrine, as it will take place after cleaning and sanctification of the premises.
“We have not been able to reach Kedarnath due to bad weather. Chopper operations are also stopped due to the fog,” temple committee’s executive officer Anil Sharma told PTI over phone from Guptkashi.
The team was to reach Kedarnath a fortnight back to clean up the premises, after which sanctification and formal puja was to be performed.
“Right now, no one from the temple committee is there. PWD, NDRF and security forces are clearing the debris in Kedarnath. We are camping in Guptkashi.” he said.
Kedarnath bore the maximum brunt in the floods and landslides triggered by the deluge in the hill State on June 16.
The 8th century temple and the sanctum sanctorum, however, are safe.
“We will clean the temple premises within a week after reaching there. All the bodies have been removed but debris are still there. As soon as the cleaning work is over, there will be sanctification puja under the guidance of temple priests,” Mr. Sharma said.
There are reports that the State government is now exploring ways to reach the Kedarnath temple on foot via the 30-km-long Chaumasi-Kalimath route. The road from Gaurikund to Kedarnath via Rambara was washed away in the floods.
“If such a way is found, we are prepared to march on foot also. We want the puja to begin as soon as possible,” Mr. Sharma said.
Meanwhile Gangadhar Acharya, priest of Omkareshwar temple in Ukhimath, has denied reports in some section of the media that the Kedarnath puja will be performed in Doleshwar Mahadev temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
“These are baseless reports. Puja will be performed in the Kedarnath (premises) only once the sanctification is done. There was a puja in the Nepal temple but that was for those who have died in Kedarnath, so that their soul may rest in peace,” Mr. Acharya said from Ukhimath.
He said that the idols of deities Shankar, Parvati, Ganesh, Bhairav and Shaligram have been brought from Kedarnath and it has been a tradition to bring them down during winters.
When asked about the security of valuable idols and ornaments of deities, Mr. Sharma said that security forces are taking care of that.
“We had requested state government for the security of idols and other assets of the temple, and security forces have been entrusted with this responsibility.” Mr. Acharya said.
Keywords: Uttarakhand, Kedarnath, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand floods, flash floods, landslips, Uttarakhand landslides, Himalayan ecosystem, Char Dham yatra, Uttarakhand rescue, disaster management, Badrinath, Himalayan rivers, National Disaster Relief Force, Uttarakhand pilgrimage