Pathetic scenes were witnessed at Jolly Grant airport, Sahasradhara helipad and railway station here on Friday as people, carrying photographs of their kin, asked survivors of the Himalayan tragedy arriving there whether they had seen those persons in relief camps around Kedarnath.
J.K. Gaurav of Pune said tearfully that he was the lone survivor of a 65-member group that was camping at Rambada when rains triggered landslips and flooded the town. He saved himself by climbing up a nearby hill along with several others.
The lone survivor
Mr. Gaurav is at a loss to break the sad news to families and friends of the victims and missing friends and relatives. “All we could see were bodies floating in the flood waters with no help in sight,” he said.
Similar tales were narrated by many survivors who did not know how and where their relatives had vanished.
Even as the government launched a massive rescue operation with the help of the military, the Air Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the State police, much more efforts were required to send immediately rations, medicines and kerosene to thousands of villagers left homeless in Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts. As road and telecommunication links to these villages had snapped, it would be better if the government asked the Army to extend help to these places also, said Indresh Maikhuri of the CPI — ML.
Irate relatives of the flood victims on Thursday blocked the Rishikesh-Dehradun road outside the airport raising slogans against the authorities for not giving them any information about their kin stranded in or missing from the Kedarnath area.
According to Bhagat Singh Koshiary, former Chief Minister and Rajya Sabha MP, dozens of villages like Gwari and Batiakot in Kapkot and Pinder valley had been washed away. Hundreds of villagers who collect the herb Garsa Yambu in the higher hill areas as agents of the Forest Department have not returned home. The government should airdrop food supplies, medicines and kerosene to 150 border villages of Kumaon, Mr. Koshiary said.
Immediate help was necessary as dozens of bridges and roads had been washed away and it would take several weeks to restore them, he added.
Badrinath MLA Rajender Bhandari said that Pandukeshwar, Govind Ghat, Lambagad, Pulna and Bhyondhar villages had been wiped out and many villagers had taken shelter in ‘chaniyas’ (temporary hutments where they live during summers). “These people are surviving on food packets dropped by relief helicopters,” he said.
Didihat MLA Bishen Singh Chufal said that a large number of roads and bridges had been washed away in his constituency and the villagers had run out of food stocks.
Expressing concern at the total collapse of the telecommunications network in the Garhwal, Rajendra Dobhal, Director General of the Uttarakhand Council for Science and Technology, felt the government should launch a scheme to promote ham radio.