3 dead in Uttarakhand as snowfall strands 400 pilgrims in Kedarnath
Three persons, including tourists from Delhi and Mumbai, died in Uttarakhand on Tuesday as hundreds of pilgrims, including including former chief minister Harish Rawat and Rajya Sabha member Pradeep Tamta, were stranded in Kedarnath after sudden snowfall in scenic hills of the state.
Uttarakhand government officials said Sudama Singh, (52) a pilgrim from Mumbai, and Janki Devi (61) a pilgrim from New Delhi died of heart attack, in Uttarakhand’s Yamnotri and Kedarnath shrines respectively on Tuesday.
A Nepalese porter identified as Akash died in after a trekking party encountred an avalanche near Kedartal in Uttarkashi . The district administration said that 35 other members of the trekking team were safe. “We have sent three teams to rescue the stranded trekkers,” said Ashish Srivastava, district magistrate, Uttarkashi.
Rudraprayag’s district magistrate Mangesh Ghildiyal said around 4,200 pilgrims on the Kedarnath route moved towards Gaurikund, the starting point on the trek to the shrine in Rudraprayag district after the snowfall. About 400 pilgrims, mostly elderly, decided to stay in Kedarnath town due to the inclement weather.
“The pilgrims at Kedarnath are being helped by the SDRF (State Disaster Response Fund) jawans, local police and the administration to come down to Gaurikund, the base station for Kedarnath,” Ghildiyal said.
Snowfall of about five inches was reported at Kedarnath, which disrupted helicopter services and the movement of pilgrims.
However in Badrinath, another popular shrine in the state that also witnessed snowfall, no pilgrims were stranded as they were transported to safer locations by the administration. Superintendent of Police (SP), Chamoli, Tripti Bhatt said the movement of pilgrims in the Badrinath shrine was normal by the noon.
“Whoever staying in Badrinath is because of their choice (to enjoy snowfall)” she said, adding that the pilgrims have been advised to take precaution because of landslides near Lambagar.
The meteorological department warned of more rains and storms in the hills of Uttarakhand in the next 24 hours. The department said snow in the higher reaches during this time of the year was not ‘unusual’.
Rawat, Tamta, local MLA Manoj Rawat and former member of the legislative council Prithvi Pal Singh were among the dozen of Congress leaders who started a trek to the Kedarnath shrine from Gaurikund in Rudraprayag district on Sunday.
“The government put out enough propaganda about the Kedar Yatra and even introduced a laser show for it but ignored the convenience of an ordinary pilgrim who prefers going to Kedarnath on foot from Gaurikund,” Tamta said over the phone.
The intermittent rains in the hills come as a challenge to the government, which had promised a smooth chardham (the pilgrimage to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamnotri and Gangotri) yatra. The local administration also reported landslides at several place that disrupted traffic.
The state’s capital Dehradun also witnessed a storm around midnight and several trees were uprooted due to heavy winds in the cantonment area of the city. Haridwar and Nainital also received rains accompanied by speedy winds on Tuesday morning.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh called Uttarakhand chief minister TS Rawat and took stock of the situation, officials said.
(With inputs from Dehradun)