Millennium Post

‘Days and nights spent with corpses will haunt us forever’

They were sheltered in God’s own abode, but the agony of the past 12 days still haunts this family from Nagpur, who were stranded in Uttarakhand, while on a trip to Kedarnath- Badrinath temples. The family included the couple and their two children, aged seven and ten.
Up to 1,000 people are feared dead and more than 8,000, mainly pilgrims and tourists, are still awaiting rescue, nine days after flash floods and landslides caused by torrential monsoon rains hit the state of Uttarakhand.

‘The terrible nights and days spent amongst corpses, with little food,  and no electricity will haunt me and my family forever,’ says Shailendra Anand, a photographer from Nagpur, speaking to Millennium Post, at the Maharashtra Sadan in the capital, where he and his family has been lodged.
Anand and his family, along with 25 other families, were part of a group visiting the holy temples of Kedarnath-Badrinath, when they were stranded in the floods.

Says Anand, 'We did not get any help from the Uttarakhand government. Instead after the calamity struck, we had to fend for ourselves and our children with the help of the Army personnels and the ration they provided us.'

'Even the Badrinath Mandir Samiti, where we were stranded for 12 days, did not treat us and the other pilgrims well. Food, which was given by them, made us sick. God knows, how many days more we would have been stranded there if we had not protested against the authorities.'
Shailendra Anand also alleges that the Mandir authorities charged Rs. 60 per minute for an STD call that they made. ‘There were around 6,000 pilgrims who were stranded there. Some died due to cardiac arrest, respiratory problem. The food given to us was half cooked and prices were exorbitant,’ he says.

Helicopters and thousands of soldiers have been deployed to help with the rescue efforts, with thousands of people already evacuated since the rains hit on 15 June. Soldiers along with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have been using harnesses and erecting rope bridges across flooded rivers as part of efforts to move people to safety.
Raging rivers have swept away houses, buildings and even entire villages in the state which was packed with travellers in what is a peak tourist season.

'More than 1,000 bridges have been damaged along with roads, cutting off hard-hit villages and towns, and helicopters were in high demand. I could not take my children in such a rush as they are too young,' he added. Blaming the Uttarakhand police, he said, ' The soldiers have been working day and night to help us to safety, while the Uttarakhand police were seen bribing their way for the rescue operation.'
'It was the soldiers who helped evacuate Badrinath. My family and I walked 40 kilometers to reach the Army bus, which took us to Delhi. The monsoon, which usually hits the country between June to September, almost always causes floods in some parts. But heavy rains arrived early this year, catching many by surprise and exposing a lack of preparedness.
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