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Friday, February 26, 2021

Uttarakhand flashflood: Power plant official missing, his son waits – with hope

Amit Shah on Tuesday informed the Rajya Sabha of the flash flood situation in Uttarakhand saying as of 7 pm on Monday, 20 people were killed and 6 injured with a further 197, including 12 villagers, missing after the deluge.

Written by Mallica Joshi | Raini (joshimath) |
Updated: February 10, 2021 1:00:56 pm
Basharat Zargar’s son Salik at the rescue site. (Express photo by Gajendra Yadav)

EACH TIME someone mentioned that another body has been pulled out of the debris, Salik Zargar pushed past officials engaged in the rescue and relief operations to check if it was his missing father. Each time, the body was that of someone else and the 24-year-old would return relieved, yet anxious.

Salik said he wanted to believe that there was still a chance that his father, Basharat Zargar (52), was alive.

At Raini village, around 8 km ahead of Tapovan, lies the Rishiganga Power Plant. Like at Tapovan, many working at the plant and a few residents of the villages around are missing. However, officials at the site say they are not looking for survivors anymore.

Salik, a student at a Noida university, and his uncle Shabir Zargar, who lives in Srinagar, reached the village after efforts to contact Basharat over the telephone failed – after the flood hit the area on February 7.

Basharat had been working with the Kundan Group, which owns the now destroyed Rishiganga Power Project, for more than a year, said Shabir. In his capacity as the general manager of the project, Basharat worked from Delhi but would often visit the plant here.

“The plant was undergoing maintenance and was shut but a lot of people were here because machine maintenance was underway. I spoke to Basharat at 10.13 am on Sunday when he asked if everything was fine at home. I told him I was busy and would call back in 15-20 minutes. When I called at 10.35 am, his phone was switched off. An acquaintance called him around 10.30 and could barely hear his voice once before everything went silent,” said Shabir, adding that they will be staying here for two or three more days.

Basharat’s family said no one from the Kundan Group has contacted them so far. “We came here after seeing the videos. The least the company could have done was to tell us,” said Shabir.

Attempts to reach Kundan Group representatives were unsuccessful.

Bhavan Rana, 32, the sarpanch of Raini village, said two people from the village, including his aunt, were missing since Sunday. “From the nearby village as well, four or five people have gone missing. Many of them were near the river when the slush and water came. We have no hope,” he said.

The fear of something similar happening again is rife in the area and, as a result, people are sleeping in higher reaches instead of their homes.

“This will continue for a couple of days, at least. We move up around 7 pm because everyone is scared that there will be another flood and this time we will not be saved,” he said.

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