It was not simply a heavy downpour that the tiny Himalayan State of Uttarakhand witnessed in the past two days, but a mountainous deluge that crashed into parts of the hilly state, leading to possibly an unprecedented tragedy. Thousands of people are missing, most of them feared dead, from in and around the Kedarnath temple, which has suffered extensive damage in the flash floods.
The usually green or snow-covered Kedarnath valley was covered with silt and large boulders thrust on it by the enormous volume of water that the flash floods brought, taking with it lives and homes. Officially, however, the extent of damage has not been announced, as there are religious sentiments attached to the temple of Lord Shiva in the abode of the Himalayas.
Huge boulders from the hills have severely damaged the famous temple. Dozens of hotels lodges, shops and houses on the roadsides and hilltops and cottages dotting the 14 km tough trek from Gorikund to Kedarnath temple do not exist today, as several of the buildings with the inhabitants — locals as well as pilgrims — have been carried away in the floods caused by cloudburst.
More than 4,500 registered mules and their owners, who take the pilgrims and tourists up from Rambada to the centuries-old Kedarnath temple, are reported missing. The worst is feared. Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna spoke of information about a large number of people having gone missing and buildings having caved in and getting washed away.
The region around Kedarnath temple remains inaccessible after the heavy rains that lashed the state in the past two days. On Tuesday, there was some respite as rains have partly let up in Uttarakhand, giving some hope for the start of rescue operations.
“Unless we reach there (Kedarnath), we can’t say anything about the tragedy that is feared to have struck us,” said a senior officer of the crisis management team.
The timely monsoon, dominated by heavy rains in two adjoining States — Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand — has caused a major tragedy in the States. A total of 131 official deaths have been reported so far in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Roads, bridges and buildings have caved in at many places. Meanwhile, there were reports of rivers in UP flowing above the danger level. An alert has been sounded. full coverage: