Rain that occurred on Wednesday and Thursday has blocked several roads and washed away a few bridges in Uttarakhand, halting the Char Dham and Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimages. Rescue teams on Friday airlifted stranded pilgrims from the Kedarnath temple and the Sikh shrine of Hemkunt Sahib.
Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat claimed the situation was normal and the state government was "regulating pilgrimage". A statement from State Disaster Management and Mitigation Centre suggested that a bridge connecting Sonprayag and Gaurikund on the way to Kedarnath, besides two cars and 100 metres of road in the
Badrinath Valley, had been washed away the gushing waters of the Alaknanada and Mandakini rivers.
Several rivers in the state, including the mighty Ganga, are flowing close to the danger mark. On Friday, the water in the Ganga was at 292.95 meters, just 1.5 meters below the danger mark. "Officials were sent to do a reconnaissance of the various dangerous points on Friday morning and they will report whether the pilgrims can progress or not," the CM told the media. Rawat also estimated the loss from the last spell of rain to be Rs 50 crore.
He also said the stranded pilgrims had been airlifted to safer places, where officials were taking care of them. "These people now want to go off to their destinations," he said. He said six bridges had been washed away on the routes leading to Kedarnath, Badrinath and Hemkunt Sahib and engineers were at work to reopen those in a day.
Meanwhile, additional chief secretary Rakesh Sharma, who left for Hemkunt Sahib on Friday morning, said 900 people had been airlifted to safer places and an equal number brought out by road. "Only 40 priests remain at the Kedarnath temple, and all the pilgrims have been taken away. At lodges near Badrinath, 2,500 people are staying safely, and they have said that they will go away only when the route is restored," said Sharma.
He said nearly 2,000 pilgrims headed to Hemkunt Sahib were stuck at Ghaghariya because of inclement weather and 90 of the women and children had been airlifted to Joshimath on priority on Thursday morning. Sharma said a high-powered team comprising him and various secretaries had flown to Joshimath from Dehradun aboard four helicopters to study the conditions and monitor the situation. "We are in touch with the district magistrates about the situation," he said.