Families of missing persons keep their hopes afloat

Uttarakhand floods: Vijay Bahuguna’s statement that the missing persons would be presumed dead after July 15 struck panic among kin

Written by PRASAD JOSHI | Pune | Published: July 9, 2013 2:40:54 am

“I returned day before yesterday to Pune,after spending nearly a fortnight in Uttarakhand,running from pillar to post,trying frantically to find my parents. But,I couldn’t find them. I checked almost every hospital,dharmashala and rescue camp in that state,but to no avail. We can’t do anything but hope for a divine intervention,” says Nilesh Ninav with moist eyes.

His parents — Dattatray and Lata — were among a group of 25 people from Pune district who went missing in Uttarakhand,after flood and landslide ravaged the north Indian state more than three weeks ago. The group also comprised four couples from Pimpri-Chinchwad.

The latest statement by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna saying that the 4,700-odd people missing in the floods could be presumed dead if they don’t surface by July 15 have added to the panic among the family members of these missing persons.

The group of 25 from Pune district who went missing includes a total of 16 women. According to district disaster management officer Vitthal Banote,they had travelled to the north Indian state on a pilgrimage on a bus owned by city-based Shivgauri Travels.

“The pilgrims’ group of Shivgauri Travels is believed to have divided into two groups. While one group could access help from the rescue operation,the other group went missing. The 25 missing persons belong to the second group,” he told Newsline on Monday .

Anand Vedpathak from Chinchwad,whose 69-year old father and 58-year old mother could not be found till date,said adverse weather conditions in Uttarakhand and the nearby states posed a massive challenge to the rescue teams.

“I had stayed in Uttarakhand myself for almost 12 days to find my parents,but returned without them. The weather there gets really difficult in between,poses problems for the rescue workers. The intermittent heavy downpour halts rescue operations for considerable periods,” he said.

Sachin Bendkar,who was also in Uttarakhand for four days in search for his 61-year old aunt Ratnamala Aru,said the recent chopper crash in the flood-hit regions has become a deterrent in the minds of the rescue machinery.

“Along with my aunt,my parents had also gone on the pilgrimage. On their return from darshan at Gaurikund,their small group of three got divided. On the fateful day of June 15,my aunt used a doli to come downhill,while my parents were on foot. The cloudburst that took place after that separated my aunt from my parents who returned safely,” he said.

The Pawar family from Talegaon-Dabhade town near Pune is among the most distressed ones,having four members,including three women,still missing in the hill state.

The missing group from Pune district mostly comprises the elderly,with 72-year old Balasaheb Gaikwad from Lonikalbhor in Pune district being the eldest. Twenty-one-year-old Pallavi Pawar from the Pawar family is the youngest.

According to the district disaster management authorities,they are in touch with the Uttarakhand rescue teams to get updates on a daily basis on missing persons from Pune.

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