900 pilgrims evacuated in U'khand

900 pilgrims evacuated in U'khand

900 persons were today evacuated by choppers from Kedar valley, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath areas with nearly half a dozen roads and bridges in Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts damaged by first monsoon showers and yatra to the Himalayan shrines severely affected for the second consecutive day.

Additional Chief Secretary Rakesh Sharma, who visited areas close to Kedarnath and Badrinath earlier in the day to assess the situation, said from Kedar valley, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath in Chamoli district a total of 900 persons were evacuated.

There are no pilgrims left in Kedarnath at the moment and all of them have been brought down to Sonprayag, who may resume their journey when the weather improves, Sharma told reporters on his return from the affected areas.

Similarly, many of those stuck in Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib areas have been brought down to Joshimath and Ghanghariya, he said, adding, choppers will make sorties even tomorrow to ferry pilgrims who are stuck on way to Badrinath and the Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib.

Chamoli District Magistrate Ashok Kumar told reporters in Gopeshwar that nearly 9,000 pilgrims are still stuck at different places on way to Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib even after today's evacuation exercise.

However, Chief Minister Harish Rawat said the situation is "far from alarming" and the yatra has just been "regulated and not suspended".

"This is regulation not suspension of the yatra. Damaged roads and bridges are being repaired and most of them are likely to be ready either by this evening or tomorrow.

"Pilgrims are waiting safely on way to Kedarnath, Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib for the roads to be reopened so that they could resume their journey," Rawat told reporters here.

Rawat invited people to visit Chardham without fearing anything "as the administration is fully alert and prepared to deal with an emergency".

He took exception to use of words such as "evacuation" and "stranded" by the media in context of the yatra, saying they seem to point to a "crisis-like situation".

He said pilgrims who had completed their journey and could not return to their homes due to blocked roads here and there have been airlifted and moved to their destinations in helicopters.

Those who want to continue their yatra have been asked to wait at safe places in Sonprayag and Ghanghariya and resume their journey when the roads are restored, Rawat said.

Just a day after the onset of monsoon in Uttarakhand, heavy rains damaged roads and bridges in Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts yesterday, badly affecting Chardham yatra and restricting movement of thousands of pilgrims bound for the Himalayan shrines.

Chardham yatra and the pilgrimages to Hemkund and Mansarovar are also interrupted due to continuing rains at places and landslides, bringing huge quantity of rubble on the roads and blocking them at a number of points.

While a vital motor bridge between Sonprayag and Gaurikund was washed away by heavy rains last evening, Badrinath highway remained blocked for the second consecutive day at four points, leaving over 9,000 pilgrims stranded at Badrinath, Hanumanchatti, Pandukeshwar, Govindghat and Ghanghariya, Chamoli District Disaster Managament officer Nandkishore Joshi said.

With heavy rocks and boulders from a hillside blocking Badrinath highway between Joshimath and Vishnuprayag devotees bound for the Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib and those returning from there have had to take shelter at different places, he said.

Over 5,000 pilgrims who had left for Hemkund Sahib have been stopped at Ghanghariya whereas around 1,200 pilgrims bound for the Sikh shrine have been asked to stay in Govindghat, Joshi said.

About 5,000 pilgrims are in Badrinath waiting for the highway to be restored, he said, adding, the Govindghat gurudwara has been vacated because of the rising waters of the Alaknanda.

Yatris who were staying there have been moved to safe places, he said. A bridge on the trek route to Hemkund Sahib has also been washed away.

A total of eight motor roads in Chamoli district are also blocked with rubble, affecting traffic, the official said.

A State Disaster Response Force release said three temporary bridges have been damaged in Chamoli district and a 100 metre road in Sonprayag on way to Kedarnath in Rudraprayag district.

57 members of the fourth batch of Mansarovar yatra pilgrims were stopped at Dharchula base camp due to incessant rains, Pithoragarh DM Sushil Kumar Sharma said.

The yatra has not been suspended as yatris who have already reached Gunji or the Chinese side are continuing their pilgrimage but the fourth batch of Mansarovar pilgrims that arrived at Dharchula base camp last evening has been ordered not to move towards the trek route camp at Sirkha as the area is being lashed by heavy rainfall up to 78 mm for the last 24 hours, he said over phone from Pithoragarh.

However, the weather is improving and we hope the fourth batch will leave for Sirkha camp tomorrow, he said.

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