Flood-hit families recount horror as rain abates in Uttarakhand

Dehradun/Haldwani/Rudrapur: 54-year-old Kiran Negi was asleep in her home in Almora early on Tuesday morning, with her husband and two grandchildren aged 12 and 16 right next to her, when a loud noise outside woke her up with a start
Stranded tourists being evacuated from the landslide-hit area of Khairna,Uttarakhand, on Wednesday. (PTI)
Stranded tourists being evacuated from the landslide-hit area of Khairna,Uttarakhand, on Wednesday. (PTI)
Updated on Oct 20, 2021 11:35 PM IST
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ByKalyan Das, Ankur Sharma and Mohan Rajput

Dehradun/Haldwani/Rudrapur: 54-year-old Kiran Negi was asleep in her home in Almora early on Tuesday morning, with her husband and two grandchildren aged 12 and 16 right next to her, when a loud noise outside woke her up with a start.

In a few minutes, her home was crushed under boulders and rubble. Negi somehow managed to muster enough strength to extricate herself, but her family remained trapped for hours. The body of her husband, Anand Negi, 60 was removed by rescue workers around 12 pm on Tuesday . Her two young grandchildren were all pulled out -- alive, but injured.

“We were sleeping in the house early in the morning when we heard a big blast-like sound. Soon after, heavy muck and boulders came crashing down on our house burying us under it. I couldn’t understand what had happened. I’m not sure how, but I somehow stood up and came out of the house. My husband and grandchildren couldn’t, and got buried in it. It was not rain, but death pouring from the clouds on Tuesday,” a sobbing Negi said over the phone.

At least 52 people have died so far after record rains lashed Uttarakhand over the last three days. Of the deaths, 28 have been in Nainital district, which saw the Naini lake overflowing, prompting frantic rescue operations from the Army, NDRF and SDRF. Nine of these deaths occurred after a cloud burst in the Ramgarh block of the district early on Tuesday morning. Apart from Nainital, Champawat district reported 8 deaths, followed by Almora with 6.

In shock after coming out of the house, Negi began screaming for help, and neighbours rushed to do their best. “But they could not rescue them from the debris. After some time, the personnel from SDRF and NDRF (state and national disaster relief forces) came to rescue the three. They could only retrieve the body of my husband. My two grandchildren were rescued, but they were seriously injured,” she said.

The two were rushed to a nearby hospital, and are now in a stable condition.

Like Negi, 65-year-old Munni Devi from Chopra village near Nainital couldn’t stop her tears after losing her 32-year-old son, Manoj Kumar, who was swept away by an overflowing stream of water near his home in the village on Tuesday night.

Kumar, worked as a storekeeper in a hotel in Nainital, was returning home on his motorbike when he lost control while crossing a stream of water. His body was recovered by rescue workers a few kilometres away from the spot on Wednesday morning.

“The rains took my young son. I lost a piece of my heart. I had never imagined I would see this day at this age,” said an emotional Devi. Even as the village mourned, Devi prayed and said, “I just pray to Lord Kedarnath that such rains should never happen again which take someone’s dear ones away from them,” Munni Devi said.

SDRF commandant Navneet Singh Bhullar who has been on the ground in Rudrapur to monitor and assist in relief and rescue said, “We have already rescued many people in the last three days. Several rescue operations are still on in the affected areas with additional deployment of personnel in sensitive areas.” Close to 1500 people have been rescued since Tuesday in different parts of the state, officials said.

Six NDRF teams have been deployed in Udham Singh Nagar, two teams each are stationed in Uttarkashi, Chamoli and one each in Dehradun, Champawat, Pithoragarh and Haridwar. “Two teams and a sub-team have been deployed in Nainital while one sub-team is placed at Almora,” an NDRF spokesperson said.

In Rudrapur town of Udham Singh Nagar district, which witnessed heavy flooding on Tuesday, 48-year-old Nandlal Gangwar remembers frantic moments of horror. “The floodwater stormed suddenly into our house and didn’t give us a chance to carry our clothes, ration or valuables. My family ran towards the terrace leaving everything behind. Our fridge, TV, washing machine, clothes, ration and all other valuables are completely destroyed,” said Gangwar.

Gangwar spent the day on Tuesday, with the rest of his family on the terrace of his home, waiting for the water of the river Kalyani, in spate at the time, to subside. “We only got down in the morning on Wednesday when the floodwater level reduced,” she said.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited affected areas of the state promising all possible help. “There has been massive damage. It will take time to return to normalcy - roads were washed away, there were landslides, rivers changed their routes, villages were affected, bridges collapsed,” Dhami said.

“We want to assure the people that our government is with them in this hour of need. We are providing every possible help including food and medicines to the needy and will continue to do so,” he said.

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Monday, December 06, 2021