As the Army and the Air Force begin winding up operations to airlift those stranded across Uttarakhand,scores of people from far-flung places are arriving at a military base camp in the hills in search of their missing relatives.
With authorities shifting their focus to finding bodies,the state government says an estimated 3,000 people are still missing.
Krishna Singhs father Baijnath Singh and 12 relatives are missing from Kedarnath since June 16 – the night Uttarakhand was hit by the devastating cloudburst that caused flash-floods. He is now at the base camp of the Army and Air Force in Gauchar looking for them.
They started from Ranchi on June 7 on a pilgrimage to the four holy places of Gangotri,Yamunotri,Kedarnath and Badrinath. After covering Gangotri and Yamunotri,they reached Kedarnath on June 16, Singh told The Indian Express Thursday.
They contacted me last on June 16 at 8.30 pm and told me that they would be proceeding towards Badrinath the next morning. There has been no news of them since. I have been searching for them at all places including Dehradun and Kedarnath and have now reached here. But there is no sign of them.
Jyotish Chander,also from Jharkhand,has been camping in Gauchar for the last four days,looking for his missing parents.
My mother,father and one of my uncles had come to Kedarnath and contacted me last on the morning of June 15. After that there was no contact. My father was ailing but insisted that he wanted to visit Kedarnath once before his death despite my resistance. Now he cannot be traced. Even the Army officers have no clue, Chander said.
Defence officers said they were doing their best to reunite people stranded in the hills with their families.
On an average,we are receiving queries about 10-15 missing persons daily. We are airlifting people from both Kedarnath and Badrinath and bringing them here to Gauchar. On landing,we record their antecedents,get them to contact their families and then conduct their medical examination. After that they are handed over to the state government,which is taking care of sending them to their home towns, an Army officer said.
From here,people are taken to Rishikesh. Those who have to go to Dehradun and beyond are further taken in Air Force and Army choppers from here to Dehradun, he said. People from Badrinath are also being brought by road since the BRO and ITBP have repaired the road at many places on the 190-km stretch between Gauchar and Badrinath.
Teko Chandra,another resident of Jharkhand,has also been looking for his missing parents and relatives for four days now.
There is no place to stay even. We are camping here in Army tents. Some locals have been quite helpful in providing us food. I and many others have started losing hope now. We will still camp here until the Army and Air Force wind up their operations, he said.