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Uttarakhand flood survivor recounts tragedy

Mayali (Uttarakhand), PTI | Updated : 23 June 2013, 02:38 PM

Gopal Prajapati is a hero for the 11 people he carried, pulled and encouraged out of a deadly and horrifying predicament, saving them from certain death during the Uttarakhand deluge.

On the way down from Guptkashi, he had stopped with his bus and was calmly trying to deal with another situation when locals and reporters gathered around.

The bus they had hired to carry them to Rishikesh had stalled on a narrow strip of a dirt track. Inside were about 35 people, mostly men and women in their 60s. But not all of whom were part of his original group of 40 pilgrims.

Only 15 from that group survived, Prajapati said. The rest they had picked up in Guptkashi, people like them who had barely managed to escape the deadly blow delivered by nature.

The nightmare for Prajapati, who said his age was "48-50" years, and his fellow travellers from Shahjahanpur district in Madhya Pradesh began with the cloud burst on June 15. They were in Kedarnath when disaster struck.

As the first boulders came loose from the surrounding hills, the pilgrims got divided. Some of them were with Prajapati. Literally carrying the elderly through the cascading water and rocks, he managed to take 11 of them to elevated ground. He saw two women being swept before his eyes.

"A third woman we had to leave behind. She died. She could not take the ordeal. She had taken ill and died in my lap on the third day after the cloud burst," recounts Prajapati.

They left Kedarnath that day itself. That was June 18. On the way back, they found three other members of their party who had got separated.

"After the cloudburst, we stayed put in the jungles surrounding Kedarnath for two days. The first day went in just trying to find a safe, dry place to take shelter in. But there was nowhere we could hide," Prajapati said.

So, they waited for more than a day, sitting on wet ground and getting constantly wet. But that was not all.

"While we were waiting there at the mercy of the elements, a gang of people arrived. Not pilgrims, but goons armed with knives.

"They made me give up about Rs 25,000 in cash which I had with me. They also looted the rest of the elderly persons with me. What can I say when people act with such greed? I was helpless," Prajapati said, his voice breaking and a few drops of tears, which he had been fighting for long, streaming down his face.

Prajapati said that the people who had robbed them were likely those who were employed as labourers in Kedarnath.

First Published: Sunday, June 23, 2013 02:37 PM
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