Tourists and pilgrims stranded on route of various pilgrim centres like Gaurikund, Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib turned up in Rudraprayag on Thursday by buses, jeeps and on foot after the route from Haridwar to Rudraprayag was reopened. Local residents whose homes had been washed away also streamed into Rudraprayag.
The survivors of Uttarakhand flash floods and landslides narrated harrowing tales of survival. They said many elderly and disabled persons had opted to stay back in dharamshalas and ashrams because they could not walk—they had decided to simply await death.
A group of 13 people who had been stranded in Gaurikund for five days said they walked 90 km to reach Rudraprayag. One of them, Deepak Thapa, said the army took three days to reach Gaurikund, and people had to go without food for three days before they were given biscuits and glucose. About 2,000 of those who arrived in Rudraprayag belonged to the Nepali community living in villages in Rambara near Gaurikund. They said the army took three days to reach Gaurikund and begin rescue operations.
A large group of people who arrived from Pandukeshwar (located between Badrinath and Vishnuprayag) said they were rescued by the army three days after the rains and flash floods and dropped them to Guptakashi from where they took buses. They said if it had not been for the army, they would not have lived. They said their homes had been washed away and that about 5,000 to 7,000 people are still stranded in dharmshalas and ashrams. Many of them are old people.
A family from Jhansi that had been stranded in Hemkund Sahib near the Valley of Flowers said the army had helped them descend to Govindghat on foot from where they were taken to Joshimath. They said they trekked to Rudraprayag because they had run out of money. “Private taxis were charging double the usual fare and the privatre helicopters pressed into service by the state government were demanding Rs 50,000 per head to reach safety,” a family member said.
About 100 people were taken to Rudraprayag district hospital and most were discharged after first aid. State officials say, the defence forces and state agencies have rescued 2,300 stranded people till Thursday.