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Char Dham Yatra halted after rains lash Uttarakhand

Dehradun: The annual Hindu pilgrimage of Char Dham that takes devouts to Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines was halted Wednesday following heavy rain in Uttarakhand, officials said.

The Rishikesh-Badrinath national highway (NH) and the road connecting Kedarnath-Gaurikund have also been blocked following heavy downpour and landslides since Tuesday.

Officials said a state of high alert for heavy rain was sounded in time and devotees were evacuated to safety. There are, however, reports that many devotees have been stranded in the rains.

A bridge constructed over the Saraswati river near Kalimath in Rudraprayag was washed away late Tuesday, after which 164 devotees returning from Kedarnath were stranded and have taken refuge in a government camp.

This bridge was constructed last year after another bridge on the river was washed away in the flash floods of June 16-17 last year. Mandakini and Alaknanda rivers are in spate and have breached the danger level marks.

Heavy to very heavy rains have been forecast for most parts of the hill state and weather officials say there will be no respite from rains for the next three days.

As many as 300 pilgrims undertaking the Char Dham yatra are reported trapped in Joshimath area en route to Badrinath and efforts are being made to ensure their safety.

"There is no danger to anyone in that area but as a matter of abundant precaution, we have halted the Char Dham Yatra till the rains stop," an official of the state disaster management told IANS.

People in many areas adjacent to the rivers have also been asked to leave their houses and move to safety.

Thousands of people were killed last year when heavy rain and flash floods devastated Uttarakhand. While most bridges and roads to the Char Dham shrines were destroyed, arterial roads to many villages were also washed away or severely damaged.

Even after passage of over a year, not much has been done to restore the routes.

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