Four years after flashfloods killed more than 5,000 people in the Kedranath valley, the land here continues to throw up skeletons of the victims.
A joint team of police officials and state disaster relief force (SDRF) recovered seven human skeletons during search operations in Kedarnath valley over two days on May 15 and 16. This comes a month before the fourth anniversary of the natural disaster. Flash floods had struck Kedarnath valley and several other parts of the Uttarakhand on June 16 and 17 in 2013 leaving behind a trail of death and destruction.
A team of 64 personnel, including five district police chiefs, carried out the search operations on the directions of the Uttarkhand High court. They found the skeletons on the Vasukital trek near the Bhairav temple –not far from the revered Kedarnath shrine. The shrine town is buzzing with Chardham Yatra pilgrims these days.
“After collecting samples for DNA test, the skeletons were cremated with proper rituals on Thursday. The DNA samples will be kept for the records,” Sreedhar Badola, deputy superintendent of police (Rudraprayag) district told HT over phone on Friday.
“Senior officials will decide whether the search operations will continue further,” he added. As per the police, the skeletons were found intact giving an impression that the people could have rushed to the hills after heavy downpour and later died due to lack of water and food or fell ill.
Last year, some trekkers had spotted more than 30 skeletons on the little known Trijuginarayan route in the valley. The route is part of Hito Kedar trek. Manoj Rawat, who had headed the group of trekkers and is also an MLA from Kedarnath, said it was a serious issue that even after four years of the disaster the skeletons were still being recovered.
“There could be another more than 100 skeletons in the valley. State government should initiate search operations and keep the entire process transparent,” said Rawat. He said the local youths should be involved in the operations as they are well versed with the valley.
With the latest haul, the total number of skeletons recovered in various search operations in the valley has reached 651.
Apart from killing more than 5,000 people, the flashfloods left thousands homeless. Several hundred people went missing. The government later declared them dead. Army and Air Force had carried out massive rescue and relief operations in the valley. This year over 60,000 pilgrims have visited the Kedarnath since May 3, when its portals were opened for the pilgrims. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had paid obeisance at the shrine on the opening day.