Authorities begin mass cremations in Kedarnath

Authorities begin mass cremations in Kedarnath

Several bodies were consigned to flames in flood-devastated Kedarnath on Thursday as authorities started mass cremation of hundreds of those who perished in the deluge.

A haunted feeling amid funeral hymns engulfed the revered temple town that use to be alive with devotional chants of devotees and priests.

Ironically, none of the next of the kin of those who perished could be present. It may be noted that the remains of the victims had started to decompose and emit foul smell.  Officials said mass cremation was necessary as there was epidemic threat.

Huge quantities of wood, ghee and puja samagri have been transported through multiple sorties in IAF choppers to the cremation site. There are bodies strewn all over in Kedarnath and Gaurikund areas where mass cremations are taking place. “It may take another day for cremating all these bodies,” sources said.

Forensic officials, police and priests were in Kedarnath on Wednesday to supervise the arrangements. At least 18 bodies were cremated late on Wednesday. DNA samples of the dead were collected by teams of doctors and forensic experts for authentication purposes before they were consigned to flames. All belongings on the mortal remains will be stored safely, officials said.

The entire ceremony was video graphed. Individual pictures of each of the dead, too, were taken. 

The are around 120 bodies that were recovered from the Kedarnath temple area alone. Many were recovered lying in nearby jungle where tourists took refuge after hotels and other buildings collapsed. The families would be given ashes from the common cremation ground.

An even more challenging task lies ahead. The areas around the Kedarnath temple have 10-foot debris. There could be several hundreds of bodies, even more. Once the debris is cleared and bodies recovered, there could be another mass cremation. “The rescue operations and the mass cremation process have been affected because of bad weather,” DIG Sanjay Guniyal said.

He said the formalities for the cremation of the victims was time consuming and the health department has warned people in adjoining areas not to consume river water as it may be highly polluted.

With the air thick with foul smell of decaying bodies in the area adjoining the Kedarnath shrine, health officials have expressed apprehensions about spread of infectious diseases. Ravikanth Raman, the nodal officer of rescue operations in Guptkashi, said, “We are now quickly cremating the bodies which have been recovered. It is likely that many more could still be lying in open areas and untraced.”
Talking to Deccan Herald on Thursday evening, DIG Sanjay Gunjyal said the cremations are taking place near the riverside.

 “A new team has reached Kedarnath. Today the process of hair and DNA samples was carried out. Identification marks were registered and photographs. Next cremations will take place possibly tomorrow (Friday) after the mandatory formalities are carried out,” he said. The DIG added that yesterday 10 men and 8 women were cremated. This was done after 2-days of the mandatory formalities, he said.  

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