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Journalism of Courage

‘We are back from the jaws of death’

First group of survivors reaches Pune with tales of devastation

“I cannot forget the Kedarnath pilgrimage till I die. We are back from the jaws of death. I have seen road caving in in front of my eyes beneath the tyres of our four-wheeler due to gushing water,river with tides as high as 30 feet and what not. Those horrific scenes of devastation still run in my mind when I close my eyes,” says advocate Gitanjali Balwadkar.

She was one of the all-women group of pilgrims from Pune — stranded in Uttarakhand following the heavy floods — who returned home safely by a private airline carrier on Thursday

night. A group of eight men,all from Alandi,too,returned in the same flight.

The all-women group reached Kedarnath on June 8. “We had darshan of Kedarnath on Saturday. On our return journey,we got caught in nature’s fury. The heavy downpour,which continued non-stop for more than 24-hours,resulted in flashfloods and landslides. We were stranded for two days at a place called Gochar in Chamoli district. There was no electricity. Finally,when the weather conditions improved,we hired a taxi to reach Delhi and catch a flight to Pune,” said Aruna Sharma-Balwadkar from the women’s group.

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In Gochar,the local people extended all possible help,

she said.

The group of men from Alandi said they took refuge at the bungalow of a local Congress leader from Chinyalisaur tehsil in Uttarkashi district. “He allowed us to stay in his spare bungalow,and rendered all help,” said Uttan Bhosale.

The group members said it was a tsunami-like situation between Uttarkashi district and Kedarnath with the Ganga and its tributaries overflowing and spelling doom. “I have never seen mountains caving in,but the flash flood caused such a havoc that everything submerged. There was mud all over and trees were uprooted,” said Datta Temghere.

More residents from Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad stranded in Uttarakhand are expected to return in the next 48 hours.

First published on: 21-06-2013 at 02:52 IST
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