The West Bengal government today brought 101 rescued pilgrims and trekkers from flood-hit Uttarakhand in an Air India chartered flight. The arrangement was only for the elderly and ailing,said Disaster Management Joint Secretary Amit Chowdhury.
Planning Minister Rachhpal Singh,too,returned with the passengers.
Apart from Kolkata,there were people from Bankura,Asansol,Durgapur and Jalpaiguri on the flight, Chowdhury said. Buses and cars had been arranged to help the rescued tourists reach their homes. To date,we have rescued about 1400 people. About 60-70 of them are still waiting at Haridwar though. We have arranged for their food and stay,and a special coach attached to a superfast train will bring them in tomorrow, he said.
The returnees,Debashish Pal and his brother Surojit from Howrah who had gone for trekking,said,On our way to Kailash,we got stuck at the Darma Valley. A bridge had broken and a huge mountain of boulders lay on our way. When we reached there,we saw bolders having engulfed an area of around 500 metre radius. The camp,which earlier used to be there,had been buried underneath it. We have been trekking for several years but have never seen a disaster of this proportion. Debashish added that they survived for 12 days eating boiled rice and leaves that the villagers would give them.
Soumen Chatterjee,a 41-year-old Ballygunge resident and spiritual researcher at Jadavpur University,also among the passengers,said We had to spend the night of June 16 in our bus because the road had cracked. We spent the next two days in a hotel in Gangotri but were asked to later vacate the place. Men,women and children had to trek down about 30 km from Gangotri, he said.
Sunil Sevakani from Garia said he was more affected by the pillage than the deluge. A group of people snatched two of my mobile phones,camera and Rs 8000 that I was carrying. Some political parties had put up free of cost phone booths through which we could contact home, he said. Sevakani said that the buildings and parking lots,which they saw on their way up,were all inundated. From a certain height,they looked like a soup of cars,buildings and bodies, he said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had sent ministers Madan Mitra and Rachhpal Singh to bring back people from Bengal who were stranded there. About 20-25 people from Bengal are still missing, Mitra said.
A medical team comprising four doctors,two nurses and two group D staff members was also present at the airport.