It is nightmare that is unfolding in Kedarnath. With the rains letting up, the lucky few who have survived the nature's fury have horror stories to tell - of dogs preying on the dead, large swathes of land washed away by furious flood waters and of a number of tiny hamlets wiped off the face of earth.
A man rows past a bus partly submerged in flood water in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. (AP Photo)
The death toll in Kedarnath and neighbouring areas is much higher than what the officials are saying. Locals told us that bodies were stuck in the rubble and caught in the debris of houses. Dogs and vultures were preying on them. If locals are to be believed, the number of dead could be in thousands.
I could have been one of the people I'm writing about but for the rain that grounded me in Guptkashi. A day earlier, I had left Delhi with my friends. We were planning to visit Kedarnath.
After staying the night in Rishikesh, we reached Guptkashi on Saturday evening.
We had booked our chopper tickets for Sunday morning to Sonprayag, close to the Kedarnath temple. Since it began to rain heavily, a district officer told us that the chopper service had been cancelled. He even advised us to stay put at Guptkashi, though we were keen to ride mules and even walk to reach the top.
By Sunday afternoon, panic had set in. There were reports of a dam burst.
There was chaos in the evening and Gaurikund had submerged. Cars were washed away and there was no power. Only the BSNL mobile service was working, that too intermittently. All contact with the locals in Kedarnath was lost as rain continued to fall in sheets.
Monday was no better and we were forced to stay put there. It was on Tuesday that I managed to contact my family, which was frantically trying to get in touch with me.
By evening, people started walking down from Kedarnath and with them came the real scale of devastation. Eyewitnesses said Vasuki Taal had burst. Former Bihar minister Ashwani Chaubey told us he had gone to Kedarnath with 14 family members and friends. Only eight of them survived. His four security guards were swept away.
The scale of devastation is high and the rescue operations woefully inadequate. The much-hyped emergency chopper service is just not enough to evacuate the stranded.
Till Wednesday morning, there were no relief camps and the administration was nowhere to be seen. We were staying at Shree Vidya Dham, which has been converted it into a relief camp but not more than 50 people could be fed there. The SDM promised to provide food and relief material, but he disappeared.
(Maneeza Ahuja is the business head of HT Mini)