She wailed under debris beside her husband's body

She wailed under debris beside her husband's body

 Rukma Devi (46) of Ujjain thought her pilgrimage would bring good fortune to her family. But fate had something else in store for her. Rukma Devi ended up wailing helplessly beside the body of her husband under the debris for two tumultuous days, in the flood-ravaged holy town of Kedarnath.

At the end of the pilgrimage, Rukma Devi was the only surviving member of her family. She lost four of her loved ones, including her husband Nageshwar, within minutes of the catastrophe. She was rescued and evacuated to Rishikesh late on Sunday, said sources. Inconsolable and penniless, she recalled the horrifying moment when her husband breathed his last by her side.

“We were hurt under the weight of debris. I helplessly saw my husband gasping for breath. He lived only for half an hour,” she said. Rukma Devi was part of a 110-member group from Madhya Pradesh, 42 of them missing for the last one week and presumed dead, sources said. She claimed to have seen her nephew, brother-in-law and sister-in-law being swept away and drowning in the heavy slush. “Why did I live to see this day?” she said.

Rukma Devi recalled how the water rose in Gandhi Sarovar, Kedarnath, within moments.

“Everybody ran for their lives. I saw my family members being swept away. Me and my husband got trapped under the debris as water flowed over us. My husband died and I could do little but to helplessly cry for the next two days alongside his body,” she said.

There are as many tales of survival and tragedy coming to the fore. Vijender Singh Negi (36) spent over nine hours hanging from the main bell of the 1,000-year-old Kedarnath temple. Negi was in the temple when the disaster struck.

But the giant-sized bell saved him from getting swept away. He stood on corpses for hours, balancing himself, as he clung on to the bell, said Negi’s brother-in-law Ganga Singh Bhandari. Negi thereafter took refuge in the nearby wilderness until a rescue team saved him.

Another survivor, Atul (13), was staying in Kedar ashram in Uttarakhand. He fell into the raging water after the ashram building collapsed due to the impact of flood water. Fighting to stay afloat in the turbulent water, Atul was tossed to a nearby roof, where he found some breathing space. But the relief was short-lived. The roof soon collapsed and Atul was once again left battling the currents. He was rescued by a sadhu. His father Rakesh said he was lucky to see his son alive after all the torment.

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