New Delhi, June 20: "All people in and around Kedarnath have been evacuated," said ITBP chief Ajay Chadha on Uttarakhand rescue operations today. But he was silent on the death toll as it is the job of the government to annouce the figure.
According to the director general of ITBP, Kedarnath cannot be accessed by roads. All evacuations have to be carried by air. The ITBP has deployed 1,000 jawans for rescue and relief operations.
Meanwhile, a pilgrim, who was rescued today, described the devastation in Kedarnath. Sitaram Sukhatiaspent 12 hours out in the open precariously perched on a cliff as torrential rains unleashed largescale devastation on Kedarnath, demolishing all that came in their way except the shrine.
Sitaram Sukhatia, a resident of Gondia in Maharashtra, spoke about Kedarnath at the Sahsradhara helipad in Dehradun. He has difficulty in standing properly even now and said he has never witnessed such a horrible scene earlier.
"There is nothing left in Kedarnath now except the temple.
"It was shocking to watch a place bustling with people metamorphose in a matter of a few hours into an island of death and destruction," he said.
There were about 8,000 people there on the fateful night when the calamity struck. 4,000 mule herders were present with their animals to ferry the devotees, but now all that is visible there is water and a lonely shrine surrounded by the debris of collapsed structures, he said.
Hotels, shops, houses have all vanished, Sitaram, who came down to Dharali on foot in order to escape the calamity, said.
Sitaram saw human bodies, cattle and LPG cylinders being helplessly cascaded away by the swirling river waters. He attributed his survival entirely to the Army and blamed the government of failing to make even drinking water available to the affected people.
Sakshi and her husband Sumit Bansal, a couple from Maharashtra who were part of a 49-member team of pilgrims, broke down as they began to narrate their ordeal which started with the waters of Gangotri rising alarmingly on June 15, prompting them to come down and put up at a hotel in Dharali along with their baby.
"As the fury of floods was unleashed by torrential rains and our hotel began to turn into a debris of mud and slush, we fled in panic along with our eight-month-old child in our arms to another nearby hotel for shelter which was already bursting at the seams," they said.
"It was water all over. We had only biscuits left with us to eat. We were short of drinking water too. With an eight-month-old child with us and virtually nothing to eat and drink and nothing for shelter, it was a nightmare we won't forget for the rest of our lives," Sumit said.
He said they had lost all hope of survival during the tormenting time, but IAF choppers arrived at last to offer a helping hand.
No Char Dham pilgrimage for three years
Pilgrimage to Kedarnath and Badrinath cannot resume for three years due to extensive damage caused by heavy rains and floods, an official said on Thursday.
Officials of the two shrines say the two places have been so badly devastated that there was nothing "but mud, devastation and death" around the highly revered temples visited by millions.
BD Singh, chief executive Officer of the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee said that the chances of reviving the pilgrimage "for the next few years" was grim.
"What we are seeing is very painful and unbelievable," he said. "We don't expect the Char Dham Yatra to resume in the next three years." Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are Char Dhams in Himalayas.
With inputs from agencies