Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kedarnath calamity

It was early monsoon, raining continuously since 14/6. Kedar Valley received nearly 720mm rainfall during 15-16-17. Entire Himalayan terrain from Alaknanda Valley to Yamuna Valley was raining.

Situation was alarming. But people were not stopping their Dham Yatra.

It was raining continuously, Chaurabari (Gandhi Sagar) lake 3kms above Kedar was getting filled up; the glacier was also moving silently with a pressure of rain water all over and other side pilgrims were entering valley of death unstopped.

At around 2.30 pm on 16/6, a big landslide near Rambada blocked returned journey of the pilgrims. All Gadheras (local word for streams) become active and became Rollas.

The muel owners and dolivalas were on strike. Kesav Tiwari was on fasting till death in support of muel owner. A movement against increasing trips of helicopter support to tourists. Many people stayed back in Kedar from 15/6.

A warning flood came on 16/6 at 7.55 pm at Kedar washed away police chowky. Water entered into many buildings. Some portion of Rambada damaged. People were in alert but unaware of thedevastating morning to come.

At 6.55am on 17/6 massive flood came with bolders and glacier materials. Within 5-8 minutes, it distroyed many buildings and filled up ground floor with debris; some people were coming out of window like fishes from the first floor. Thereafter, flood started receding but killed thousands. Lazy people sleeping on second floor saved life in undestroyed buildings. The stiff angle of river nearly 65 degree, converted it into a fall, hitting directly to Rambada removed its existance. The changed route killed many enroute. Those who tried to escape of the floods and landslide tried to take shelters through climbing mountains behind Rambada. Some succeeded in getting approach to Tirjugi Narayan route. But many died in fotest area behind Rambada due to heart attacks, lungs problems and starvation.

Nature killed them cruelly. Weather Dhatri Devi or not, their dead bodies are under debris or eaten byvultures and animals. 3068 pilgrims from other states are missing. 4500 mules, 300 dolies, shop keepers, hoteliers, their staff, bangers, nepalis, etc., indicate very big figure of locals in the Kedar Valley. The deaths toll may go upto 8000.

Many have been rescued from Kedar, Garud Chatti, Jangle Chatti, Gaurikund, etc., by IAF, NDRF, ISBT, BSF, Army and State Police. The crash of MI 17 killing 20 soldiers might bring out another human mistake of flying high withoverloading.

If District administration could have stopped the pilgrims going into Kedar from 14/6, following heavy to very heavy rainfall warnings of IMD, the calamity could have been mitigated.

If pilgrims could have stopped reading heavy rainfall condition could have saved themselves. Many stopped at Gaurikund have been saved.

If Kedar could have been evacuated on 16/6 night after the warning flood at 7.55 PM and people could have been shifted to a safe location at Bhairav Temple 2.5 kms to the right of Kedar and people at Rambada could have been guided to go upwards towards Gauriya instead of climbing up in mountains; thousands of lives could have been saved. But it was difficult to presume or imagine such a massive flood and convince the people to move out of hotels and dharmashalas and spend a night under open sky at Bhairav Temple. Similarly, people at Rambada returning from Kedar can't go back up towards Kedar.

Let us pray God to rest the Souls in Peace.

Punamchand Parmar,

Team Leader
Team Gujarat
Camp: Dehradun.
2 July 2013


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