‘Trying to survive the deluge was like commando training’

Heavy rainfall, cloudbursts, flood and landslides on 16 and 17 June devastated the entire Kedar Valley from Gauri Kund to Kedarnath. While Madhav Karnatiki, lost his lodge Maharashtra Mandal in the catastrophe on the morning of 17 June in the Kedarnath valley, Manoj Bahuguna with his wife Sangeeta remained stranded in Kedarnath valley for four days.

Manoj, a pundit by profession, is a regular visitor to Kedarnath shrine for the past five years. This time too, he has gone to Kedarnath with his spouse.

On 16 June, he started his journey upwards from Gaurikund. During the day, they reacheded the top and paid obeisance to Lord Shiva. Then, they decided to make the trek down. At Rambara, he found the place was over-crowded and he could not find a single room vacant in hotels, lodges or dharamshalas.  So, they decided to reach Gaurikund as early as possible. However they had hardly descended two to three kilometers from Rambhara when it started raining heavily.
The sound of falling of boulders into the Mandakini river was enough to keep everyone awake throughout the night. In the intense darkness, under the sky with no roof or cover, hundreds of  stranded pilgrims passed a  sleepless night with names of the almighty on their lips.

On 17 of June, when day broke, all survivors decided to fight for their survival.  On arriving at a  common decision, they decided to climb mountain in order to reach safe place. A Nepali youth was chosen to lead the group as he was familiar with the surroundings.

‘It reminded me of the training given to newly-recruited commandoes,’ says Manoj as he recalls the horros of the day. ‘Somehow, we reached Gauri village which was  already flooded with tourists. We got a mud-house to live with heap of grass as a bed. Our clothes were wet and  we could not sleep properly on the first night. Next day, the villagers served khichri to us. This was our first meal in  days,’ he says.

ITBP and the local police with the aid of the people around managed a temporary helipad in the area and his wife first got airlifted to Dehradun on 20 June. Later, he got airlifted to Fata.
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