Lalit Pant, who with his family walked from Kedarnath to Ukhimath in Rudraprayag district through a dense forest, saw about 1,000 bodies, of which he rolled 300 down the steep gorge in the heavily-flooded Mandakini river.
“Most of these people died of hunger and dehydration,” he said, adding that he did this nerve-wracking exercise because the bodies had started decomposing and was advised on this by the muleteers he met on the way.
“We too would have met with the same fate had we been late even by a few hours in reaching here,” said Pant, a football coach from Meerut, recalling how he trekked through the forested area for six days.
“It was a 25-km mountainous trek through a virgin dense forest … but we made our way through a route that was strewn with the bodies,” narrated the 47-year-old the experience he, his wife and two 10-year-old daughters had.
“We were forced to pass our nights in forests amid those carcasses only,” said Pant, dazed.
Death was the word most repeated on the helpline run by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
“Please take me out or I will die … there are dead bodies all around. There is no food and I cannot bear it anymore,” said a caller who was rescued in Kedarnath on Thursday.
“The hills are falling, please save us,” said another caller.
A person from Delhi pleaded with NDMA officials to trace 12 family members who had gone to four pilgrimages and could not be contacted. “I will be orphaned if you fail to find them … the entire blame would fall on you,” he said.