Even as you read this report, more than 500 tourists from Bengal are stranded at different places between Gauri Kund and Kedarnath. And they are starving!
“Hundreds of tourists from Bengal got stranded en route to Kedarnath and Gauri Kund. They were on their way down, but couldn’t move further and had to take shelter at roadside chotiwalas (motels). I’ve requested the local administration to send them food and water on pack mules,” Rachpal Singh, state planning minister, told HT.
Singh and state sports and transport minister Madan Mitra are, at this moment, in Uttarakhand to rescue these stranded tourists. On Thursday, the situation improved slightly and the Uttarakhand government managed to repair small stretches of roads from Rishikesh to Uttarkashi and Guptkashi. About 200 tourists from the state have moved down to Rishikesh and will head for Dehradun on Friday. “But it seems that it’ll take at least a week to repair the road from Gauri Kund to Kedar. “The government has managed to repair the helipad at Kedarnath and has pressed 22 helicopters into service. But the helicopters could hardly operate on Thursday because of bad weather,” Singh added.
The government has got in touch with railway officials and arranged for stay at railway guesthouses and private hotels in Dehradun. They have also kept a few buses ready at Dehradun to carry the stranded tourists to Haridwar. “The rescued tourists will be taken to Dehradun from Rishikesh. From there, they’ll reach Haridwar by road and take a train to Kolkata,” Singh said.
“We’ve sent a team of 74 members and they’re stranded at Badri and Chitapur. We’ve arranged for generator services for the man dare giving them food and water. But unless we bring them quickly, we may fall short of rations. We’re keeping in contact with the government,” Soumitra Kundu, from Kundu Special, said.
The state government’s disaster management department, meanwhile, has sanctioned Rs 20 lakh to take care of, and bring back, stranded tourists and pilgrims in Uttarakhand.
Disaster management minister Javed Khan said on Thursday, “With roads from Uttarkashi and Guptakashi now opening up to traffic, it’s expected that the stranded tourists or pilgrims will be reaching Rishikesh by late Thursday evening.” “A senior railway official has been deployed at Haridwar to help people board Howrahbound trains. The first train will leave for Howrah at 9.55 pm on Thursday,” Khan said.
“Air India has promised 120 seats from June 21 onwards on its evening Delhi-Kolkata flight, which leaves Delhi at 5.45pm for tourists who are either elderly, or have fallen ill,” Khan added.