It was a nightmare we will never forget, says flood survivor

A man was forced to spend 12 hours out in the open precariously perched on a cliff as torrential rains unleashed largescale devastation on Kedarnath, demolishing all that came in the way with equal fury save for the shrine.

Sitaram Sukhatia, who is a resident of Gondia in Maharashtra, recounts his agonising tale of his close encounter with death and devastation at the ancient Himalayan shrine as he alighted from an IAF helicopter at Sahsradhara helipad here.

Sukhatia (63), who has difficulty standing properly even now, said that 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 into an island of death and destruction in a matter of a few hours,” he said. There were about 8,000 people there on the night 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 said, who came down to Dharali on foot in order to escape the calamity. Sitaram, who saw human bodies, cattle and LPG cylinders being helplessly cascaded away by the swirling river waters, attributed his survival entirely to the Army and blamed the government for 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 the 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, 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 finally arrived to their rescue.

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