Minister for public relations and culture affairs Laxmikant Sharma, who is heading a team of officers and doctors from Madhya Pradesh in Uttarakhand, said he has never seen such a large-scale devastation in his life except that of Bhopal gas tragedy.
But the difference between the two massive tragedies is while the Bhopal gas tragedy was a result of certain people’s negligence, the Uttarakhand destruction was caused by nature’s fury, the minister said on Sunday.
“Thinking of the casualty in this challenging situation doesn’t come to our mind. We want to rescue more and more people stranded in different parts of the state and send them back home. But there are at least 500 people from the state who are still untraceable,” said the minister when asked about the number of persons who were killed in the tragedy that struck them during their pilgrimage.
According to eye-witnesses, more than 1,000 people had died in the tragedy, the minister said. The figure might go up further. The pilots of choppers were saying they saw dead bodies getting decomposed and stench filling the atmosphere.
But their priority was to first lift those who survived the big tragedy, Sharma said. As there was further warning for bad weather, the rescue operation should be completed at the earliest.
According to the minister the biggest challenge for them in their rescue and relief operation was weather.
For instance, the choppers could not fly to Badrinath. While pilgrims from Kedarnath had been rescued there were at least 6,000 pilgrims who were still stranded there. Out of them there were about 450 from Madhya Pradesh.
Now weather is looking somewhat better, and there is possibility of resuming the flights that will rescue the stranded pilgrims from Rishikesh, Haridwar and Jolly Grant, he said.
The pilgrims are then sent back to Bhopal, Jabalpur, Indore, Satna and various other places by bus, he said. A good number of buses from Madhya Pradesh had been pressed into service to take the pilgrims to the state.
Talking of those who have survived and are coming back home through them, he said, “When people from Special prayer sessions are being held by various religious groups in the state capital for the safe return of pilgrims stuck in Uttarakhand.
Islamic peace foundation has arranged for special prayers at Kamla Park on Monday at 2pm, informed Mushahid Zama of the foundation.
Gurdwara prabandhak committee held special prayers at Gurdwara Gurunanak Tekri at Idgah Hills on Sunday. President of the committee, Gyani Dilip Singh said prayers for peace of the departed souls and for safety of stranded pilgrims were held at the gurdwara.
On Saturday, inter-religious prayer was organised by the Catholic church at Seva Sadan.
PRO of Catholic churches father Solomon and spokesperson father Johney PJ said representatives from all religions were invited to take part in the prayer session.
MadhyaPradesh see me, they hug me and break down. In between sobs they narrate their pain and agony of losing their loved ones. Nobody can hold back their tears.”
On the rescue and relief wo rk , the minister said the team of officers and doctors continues to move from one camp to another round the clock. Tents had been put up at Rishikesh, Haridwar, Jolly Grand, among others.