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'Bridge collapsed minutes after our bus crossed it'

“It’s the first time, we witnessed nature’s destructive power. We saw many people dying and hundreds of cars floating in the flooded waters. The only thing I prayed for was that my wife and I should either survive together or die together,” said 73-year-old Chaturbhuj Sarvaiya, who along with his 63-year-old wife Devyani Sarvaiya had embarked on a journey of faith to Uttarakhand.


Desperate measures: After nearly 26 bridges were washed away in Rudraprayag due to the flash floods, army personnel resorted to throwing ropes across rivers to rescue pilgrims. Pics/AFP

The couple, from Kopargaon which is 14 km from Shirdi, was among the 15 people from the region who had gone to Kedarnath. All of them safely returned to the city early morning yesterday.

“We reached Mumbai Central station at 4 am after boarding a special train from Haridwar. All members from our group are safe. Eight of us from the group are aged and we are all immensely thankful to God that we are back home safe,” said Devyani.

The pilgrimage was supposed to be an important trip for the couple, but it left them shaken.

“We left on June 7 for Delhi and took a minibus for our journey beyond. Our first stops were at Yamunotri and Gangotri, where we took a holy dip and had a good darshan. But we could proceed only till Gaurikund, as the roads ahead were closed due to the floods and landslides,” said Chaturbhuj.

The travelling group stayed at a hotel in Rampur for four days, as they could not continue their pilgrimage due to the turbulent weather.

“Staff at the hotel was very helpful. When we arrived, there were around 150 to 200 people taking shelter at the hotel. We did not encounter much difficulty in getting food and water, as it was made available to us.”

55
The number of helicopters pressed into service for rescue operations 

Hair’s breadth
According to the couple, the episode which will forever be etched in their memories, occurred after they left the hotel for their home. A bridge on the arterial road linking Sonprayag to Gaurikund came crumbling down after their bus passed over it.

“We were 25 km ahead of that bridge when we were informed that it had collapsed minutes after we crossed it,” said a relieved Chaturbhuj.¬†

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