“All my family members are there, I do not know what will happen to them and me,” weeps 74-year-old V Ravichandra, a resident of Yelachenahalli. He is waiting for the last five days to hear from his family which travelled to Badrinath, as part of the Char-Dham yatra.
“My two grandchildren, aged four and nine years, are missing, along with my son and daughter-in-law. My family members have not been rescued. All I heard was that five people from their group of 19 have been rescued. But these do not include my family members,” said Ravichandra.
Ravichandra himself has visited Uttarakhand four times earlier without any issues. He is now waiting worriedly for news of his family.
The plight of Sudha Patil, from Vijayanagar, is bad too. Her 24-year-old son, Kartik S Patil, who had gone on a trekking and biking trip to north India, with seven friends, is missing. The last time she spoke to him was on 14th. Sudha says that he had called up in the morning and said that they were having tea and planned to head towards Kulu on their Bullet motorcycles. “He called me up (so I could) hear the sound of the river flowing,” she recalled.
For the help of the people, various helplines have been set up.
Rudraprayag – Deepak Patel – 9808151240
Rudraprayag – Sunil – 9837134399
Haridwar – Mukhesh Sharma – 9451901023
Almod/ Bageshwar – Sushil Khandoori – 9456755206
Almod/ Bageshwar – Subodh Khandoori – 9634535758
Uttarkhand Helpline – 0135- 2710334 / 2716201/ 2710335 / 6555523 / 6555524.
Uttarkhand mobile: 9755444486
District disaster center at Rudraprayag – 01364233370
District magistrate -08859549001, 09412054717
District disaster center at Chamoli – 01372252101 and 01372252102
District magistrate – 07579115972
Officials from state:
Hemanth Nimbalkar (Internal Security Wing): 9448110100
Naveen Raj Singh (Social Welfare):94486231479
Karigowda (Mines & Geology):9886231479
Karnataka Bhawan- Prassana- 09868393971
Anand Ram- 09868393946
Karnataka Bhavan – 1- 011-24103701 / 24103702
Karnataka Bhavan -2 – 011-2611766 / 26117624
Karnataka Bhavan -3 – 011-26252765 / 26250750
Uttarkhand Helpline – 0135- 2710334 / 2710335 / 6555523 / 6555524
Uttarkhand mobile: 9755444486
Main helpline: 080 22253707
080-1070 (to call from BSNL cell)
1070 (to call from BSNL landline)
Tushar Girinath- Revenue secretary – 9741921222
Ms Sarojamma, Deputy sucretary, Revenue Dept – 9448351194
Somshekhar, Spl officer, Revenue dept, – 8971644479
“The last time I spoke to him a week ago at 10.45 am, he said he was fine; he used to call me twice a day. Now it has been seven days and I do not know where he is. My husband and I are trying to go there and search for my son as no one responds on the control room. The Karnataka team officials are also not picking their phone. Why did they give the numbers when they do not want to answer the phone? We even called the home minister but there was no reply,”’ complained Sudha.
Sukanya V Rajan, a resident of HAL, has been unable to get in touch with her sister and brother-in-law, who were part of a group of 56 people who had gone on a Chard-dham trip organised by Nirmala Travels. “The last time I spoke to my brother-in-law, he said that they were safe and stuck at Gaurikund. But after that their phone has been switched off,” she said. Lack of proper response from the travel agent has multiplied their worries. “His phone is switched off now. Once (earlier) when we were able to speak to him, the travel agent (whose name he never disclosed) just said all are safe and disconnected the call. After this, there has been no news,” she describes.
Nalini Jaganath (49), who was worried about her husband, sister and sister-in-law and her family members, heaved a sigh of relief last night at 8.30 pm, when she spoke to her husband who said he was safe and were on their way to Haridwar.
No food, no water for survivors
“My family members, along with 11 other relatives, had gone to Kedarnath and had left from Bidar as one group on June 6. They went to Gangotri, Yamunotri and were at Kedarnath when the unfortunate incident happened. When I spoke to them last, they were crying and saying that they did not have any food or water for two days. Only when they reached the army base camp, they had something. I remember my son saying- we have frozen here, please do not ask us any more questions, but just keep some food and clothes ready,” added Nalini.
Rashmi Kulkarni, a resident of BTM Layout, said that five of her family members who had gone to Kedrnath are still stuck in Gourikund.
J Govindaraju, a resident of Padmanabhanagar, explains. “Seven people from my family are stranded at Badrinath. They were a part of a group of 125 people who had gone on Char-Dham yatra. The last I spoke to them was at 10.30pm on Friday night. Though they say they are safe, their health is not fine. They have fever and blood pressure. But food and medicines are not available in the Dharmashala where they are stranded.”
Back home safe
Former minister Shobha Karandlaje, says that she does not want to recollect those few days when she was stranded in the middle of nowhere. She said this was the first time she decided to go for a Char-Dham yatra and had finished visiting Gangorti and Yamunotri before reaching Kedarnath. “I was on my way to Kedarnath when the Tehri-Garhwal highway was closed. I along with a 1000 other people had to take shelter in Rudraprayag. There was no help at all. No food, no water, no proper place to take shelter. There was no toilet facility, nothing. We had packed some snacks to eat so we managed with it. We could not make out the difference between the sky and the river. The situation was worse at night. There was no help, we only took the help of a few locals and managed to get one JCB to find our way out. There was no one to airlift us at that time. Somehow, we managed with our will and spirit.”
She however asserts that this is not the end. Once everything is clear, she will definitely visit the shrine again and complete the Char-Dham yatra. This is a natural calamity and an unforgettable experience.
There are some who avoided the calamity and are on their way back home. A team of pilgrims consisting 50-60 members from Malleshwaram who went to Badrinath could reach Delhi safely one day before the flood, hence they escaped the tragedy.
Recollecting the horrific experience, Sharada M C (41), a resident of Malleswaram, who reached back Bangalore on Thursday night, said that she started her journey on June 9 with her sister and another friend. “We were on a Char- Dham yatra and this was the first time we were traveling this side… We were stuck from June 16 to 18 due to heavy rainfall. We had to return from Rudraprayag as there was no connectivity to the shine. We were stuck on the highway for over eight hours, after which we somehow managed to reach Karanprayag and from there to a hotel Gadwavikas Mandal Nigam. Luckily we had gone through a package tour organised by Uttaranchal government tourism, so we had no much problems. But I now I am too scared to go back and complete the journey.”
Rescue mission: Special services
- Special trains running from Haridwar to Delhi, Lucknow and Ambala, since 20th June 2013 at night.
- Government has initiated online text message services for the victims to inform their relatives and also the disaster management cell about their whereabouts : the last place where they were seen or the current location, contact number and if any help is required.
- The UK police has published the list of rescued people from Koti Tehri, Rajakhet and Guptakashi on their website.
- Rudraprayag- Uttarakhand administration has published on their websites the list of resued people.
- Hindu News and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have actively got into operations and have set up their own helpline services for missing people. They constantly post updates from the ground zero. Hind News helpline is reported to have received more than 5,000 calls. They also report that they have received 200 unrecognisable bodies.
She recollects that her family members and only son were terrified as they were unable to contact her for three days.
Official summary of the situation
Hemanth Nimbalkar, Nodal officer from Karnataka, presently in Dehradun, explains: “Rescue operations are going on. We are striving to rescue all the people, irrespective of where they are from. We are in direct contact with 300 people; we are trying to ensure that their relatives reach home safely.”
An official press note from the Information Department of Karnataka Bhavan in New Delhi says that so far over 200 people belonging to Karnataka have been airlifted. The officials point that it is difficult to ascertain how many people are stranded there. Presently as per the information they have, over 4000 people are stranded in Gourikund of which 150 belong to Karnataka. All the rescued will be brought to Phatta and from there they will be taken to the rest houses which have been opened by the Karnataka government in Dehradun. From here they will be sent to Delhi and then to Bangalore. Over 40 people are resting in Karnataka Bhavan and will start their trip back to Bangalore.
Three medical teams have been sent to Delhi, Hrishikesh and other rain-affected areas to assist the people there. Each team comprises of three people. They will check the health of the people and provide aid to them.
Three medical teams consisting of two medical officers and two male health workers have been sent to address health problems of pilgrims returning from Uttarakhand. They will report to the Resident Commissioner, Karnataka Bhavan, New Delhi, maximum by Saturday morning, said an official release. The team will be deployed at Delhi, Rishikesh and Rudraprayag and work as per directions of field officers. State Information Minister Santosh Lad has been sent to Uttarakhand as a state representative.
Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said that the railways will ensure people who are returning from Uttarakhand will get immediate confirmed tickets to reach back to their respective destinations. On Wednesday, June 18, a group of 25 people and on Thursday, June 19, a group of 28 people have started for Bangalore from New Delhi. As many as 31 people have reached Bangalore yesterday, on 21 June 2013.
Chief Minister Siddharamaiah has released Rs 50 lakh to bring the pilgrims back to Bangalore safely from Uttarakhand. According to a release from the Chief minister’s office, 1200 pilgrims are stranded of which 740 are in Kedarnath, 340 in Badrinath and 167 in other places. In New Delhi, many mutts have come forward to treat the pilgrims including Raghavendra Mutt in KR Puram; Pejawar Mutt and Shankar Mutt in Vasanth Kunj.
No response from helplines
Most of the relatives who are striving to get in touch with their dear ones complain that they are unable to get through to any help lines.
Heavy price for basic amenities
People in the devastated area are complaining that they are being forced to give money for food and water, which are basic requirements.
“As per the last conversation with my uncle, they are forced to pay Rs 50-100 for a cup of coffee or tea and Rs 300 for a meal. They say that they are left with no money and food is limited. The medicines which they had taken are also over and the new medicines are not suiting them. For the prescribed medicines they will have to shell out more money,” explains Govindaraju from Padmanabhnagar.
Updates: 1 pm, Saturday, June 22, 2013
Speaking to Citizen Matters on Saturday, Naveenraj Singh, Social Welfare Commissioner, who is in Uttarakhand as the nodal officer for the rescue team from Karnataka, explained: “We are concentrating on Kedarnath, as we have the information that over 2500 people are still stuck there. The army, air force, ITBP and other units are there to help the needy. We wanted to start the rescue operation in Badrinath today, but looking at the urgency in Kedarnath, we are focussing on Kedarnath still.”
“There are around 8,000-10,000 people stranded in Badrinath, but as per information, they are all safe. Of this 6,000 are locals and 2,000 are pilgrims, all will be rescued. Of this how many are from Bangalore or Karnataka is difficult to say. However food, medicine and all basic aid is being provided. I agree people are anxious, but we are doing as much as we can. We will start operations at Badrinath by Saturday afternoon if the weather permits. There is haze currently. Makeshift helipads have also been built in Junglechetty and Rambada ,” added Singh.
“The rescue team from Karnataka is getting messages about people still stranded there. The team requests people to send the department their call details and if the relatives spoke to them, tell the officials their locations, so that the team can try and get to them,” he added.
Naveenraj Singh confirmed the incidents of looting by some anti-social elements in the flood-affected area. He said that they came to know of such an act in Gourikund, where some anti-social elements grabbed the water bottles and food packets and were selling them. “We, along with the ITBP and army nabbed them. But since there is no proper place, either to keep them or for them to run, they escaped and blended into the crowd. People are inaccessible, aid is limited and it is a catastrophe. It is not a picnic. People should adjust with the limited biscuits, poori and potato sabji provided. It is only temporary,” he explained.
Tushar Girinath, secretary of Disaster Management, said that it is very difficult to trace people as there is no connectivity and the phones are all jammed. “With the help of the army, Uttarakhand officials and teams there, we are helping the people stranded, as we cannot go there by ourselves. As per the information I have got, 1,200 people are stranded since June 17. A team of six members has been sent from karnataka to help the needy. Problems are there as half the place is not connected by road or anything. We have opened a camp at Hrishikesh and all rescued are being brought here, treated and then sent to Delhi. Further medical help is given at the Karnataka Bhavan in Delhi and then they are sent to Bangalore by train with a second class railway ticket.”
Girinath added that so far around 500+ people are yet to be rescued and brought to safe camps by the army. The team from Uttarakhand has sent 12 people back to Bangalore and 30 will be leaving soon now.
Rains affect the rescue operation
The rains have affected the rescue operations in various parts of Uttarakhand. However, Indian Meteorological Department rules out the possibility of another big rain. Speaking to Citizen Matters, weather department’s Bangalore director B Puttanna explained: “It was a cloudburst and the rainfall was more than 200 mm per hour. This will not happen now. Rainfall would occur in the next couple of days, but not more than 12 cms.”
Puttanna added that the Dehradun weather forecast, which is available on www.imd.gov.in also shows the same. It is partly cloudy and there is a possibility of thunder showers. But since there is not much heat, the rainfall would be less.
Update: Sunday, 23 June 2013
As many as 81 members from Karnataka have been rescued, including four persons from H S R Layout. They have been taken to Karnataka Bhavan in Delhi and will be leaving to Bangalore soon. The state government has sent a helicopter to aid the rescue operations.
Updated: 8 pm, Sunday, 23 June 2013.