“These last four days, I didn’t have a clue of the whereabouts of my family members who are on a pilgrimage to Badrinath and Kedarnath,” said Prasad Devdhar of Vijaydurg in Sindhudurg district.
Eight of his family, including women, children and his 73-year-old father Manohar Devdhar, are stranded in the inclement weather near Badrinath. “Every time I switched on the TV, the visuals only added on to my woes. Thankfully I received a phone call in the evening (Wednesday) from my father, saying that they were all stranded in bad weather but were safe. I am waiting for them to return,” Devdhar said.
The rivers in spate in northern regions of the country have caused ripples of disquiet in the state, as roughly 2,000 tourists from across Maharashtra are still stranded in various flood-hit districts of Uttarakhand - Rudraprayag, Haridwar, Badrinath, Sonprayag, Kedarnath, Uttarkashi and others. The location of around 350 of these tourists has not yet been ascertained. A woman from Raigad has reportedly lost her life in the intense cold.
State chief secretary Jayanat Kumar Banthia confirmed the numbers, saying, “As per the information available with us, 1,988 tourists from Maharashtra are stranded at various places in Uttarakhand. Of these, 1,638 tourists are reportedly safe, but we have no information about the remaining 350 tourists. We are in constant touch with our counterparts and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) officials to get clues about their likely whereabouts.”
Banthia added, “We are presuming that due to poor weather and bad connectivity, we are not able to reach the 350 tourists and so far, their whereabouts could not be ascertained.”I A Kundan, secretary and director, Disaster Management Unit, Government of Maharashtra, said the possibility of duplication of numbers in the list of 350 tourists could not be ruled out.
“Soon after we were alerted about the situation in Uttarakhand, we asked all district collectors to gather details from various agencies including tour operators about people who had gone to that state. The names and details can be confirmed only after we establish contact with the stranded tourists,” she explained. Asked about the number of people from Mumbai stuck amid the deluge, Banthia said, “All the 159 tourists who had hired the services of Kesari Tours and Travels are believed to be safe and their details are with us.”
Woman dies of cold
Elaborating on causalities, he said, “We have information about a woman named Gulab Doshi, a resident of Mangaon, Raigad, who unfortunately passed away due to extreme cold. We do not have any information on more causalities so far. Also, there is no hospital close to the places that are affected.”
“We were intending to use state aircraft to lift the marooned tourists back to safety, but we were informed by the airport authorities in state capital Dehradun that the weather was not feasible for landing. Moreover, due to the Prime Minister’s visit to the affected areas, landing of planes was restricted,” explained Banthia.
Kundan added, “Of the 1,638 tourists believed to be safe, we have confirmation of 159 tourists from Mumbai and 48 from Nashik who are safe at Rishikesh; 26 tourists from Nandurbar are safe at Darsi; 196 from Ahmednagar are safe, of which 143 are at Haridwar, 25 at Badrinath, 12 at Sonprayag and 16 at Kedarnath.” Meanwhile, the disaster control room located in barracks no 8 close to the NCP office opposite Mantralaya received nearly 170 phone calls from worried family members, seeking information about their dear ones caught amid the forces of nature.
According to Kundan, “The control room is manned by five staffers round the clock who take details of callers – place and address they are calling from, contact numbers of stranded relatives, travel agency that did the booking, tour leaders and other particulars. Details like number of people are being noted, which will help in coordinating with NDRF and other agencies working at ground zero.” Senior government functionaries including MSRDC joint director M M Ramachandani and other senior officials left for Dehradun yesterday to take stock of the situation.
Smitha Mane, a practising lawyer from the central suburb of Kanjurmarg, is concerned about her mother Suhasini (73). “The footage on TV and our futile efforts to reach mummy only added to our tension. This is the first time she has gone on a pilgrimage alone. Though I could not speak to her, I am in touch with the tour operators (Kesari Tours) and they have assured me that everyone is safe.
” Shubhangi Joshi (49), a resident of Thane (W), is in Uttarkashi at present with her sister-in-law Medha (53) of Dombivli. She said, “We are stranded in Uttarkashi due to the landslide, and had to abort further travel. The tour operators have arranged for lodgings. We were stuck with no network and connectivity but the weather has improved since Tuesday, and we are hopeful of returning to Mumbai soon.”
Call here for info
Disaster Management Control Room, Mantralaya
022-22027990, 022-22816625, 022-22854168
Pradeep Kumar, officer on special duty, Maharashtra (Uttarakhand)
Jagdish Upadhyay, officer on special duty (Dehradun)