Free Press Journal

900 pilgrims evacuated in Uttarakhand


Dehradun: 900 persons were today evacuated by choppers from Kedar valley, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath areas with nearly half a dozen roads and bridges in Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts damaged by first monsoon showers and yatra to the Himalayan shrines severely affected for the second consecutive day.

Additional Chief Secretary Rakesh Sharma, who visited areas close to Kedarnath and Badrinath earlier in the day to assess the situation, said from Kedar valley, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath in Chamoli district a total of 900 persons were evacuated.

There are no pilgrims left in Kedarnath at the moment and all of them have been brought down to Sonprayag, who may resume their journey when the weather improves, Sharma told reporters on his return from the affected areas. Similarly, many of those stuck in Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib areas have been brought down to Joshimath and Ghanghariya, he said, adding, choppers will make sorties even tomorrow to ferry pilgrims who are stuck on way to Badrinath and the Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib.

Chamoli District Magistrate Ashok Kumar told reporters in Gopeshwar that nearly 9,000 pilgrims are still stuck at different places on way to Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib even after today’s evacuation exercise. However, Chief Minister Harish Rawat said the situation is “far from alarming” and the yatra has just been “regulated and not suspended”. “This is regulation not suspension of the yatra. Damaged roads and bridges are being repaired and most of them are likely to be ready either by this evening or tomorrow.

“Pilgrims are waiting safely on way to Kedarnath, Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib for the roads to be reopened so that they could resume their journey,” Rawat told reporters here.

Rawat invited people to visit Chardham without fearing anything “as the administration is fully alert and prepared to deal with an emergency”. He took exception to use of words such as “evacuation” and “stranded” by the media in context of the yatra, saying they seem to point to a “crisis-like situation”.

He said pilgrims who had completed their journey and could not return to their homes due to blocked roads here and there have been airlifted and moved to their destinations in helicopters. Those who want to continue their yatra have been asked to wait at safe places in Sonprayag and Ghanghariya and resume their journey when the roads are restored, Rawat said.