Thousands of Indians Declared Missing in Himalayan Floods

Nearly 6,000 people have been declared missing in the flood in Indian state of Uttarakhand.


Sabtu, 20 Jul 2013 14:33 WIB

Thousands of Indians Declared Missing in Himalayan Floods

India, flood, natural disaster, Uttarakhand, Jasvinder Sehgal

Nearly 6,000 people have been declared missing in the flood in Indian state of Uttarakhand.

One month after the flash floods struck, the government has announced that anyone who is still missing is presumed dead.

Many families are having to come to deal with the fact they will never know what happened to their loved ones.

Chauth Mal Pareekh and his wife are having a hard time dealing with this. They’re now busy searching for a recent photo of their missing son, Sharad Pareekh, at home.

They want to publish it in the newspaper... hoping to find a clue to his whereabouts...

“My son is a taxi driver, he takes tourists sightseeing. On the 10th of June, he left home with some tourists. Three days later he called me, telling me that he’d visited the temple of Badrinath. He called me again on the 16th, he told me that due to the bad weather he might be home 2-4 days late... but after that he went missing.”

Record rains in June caused devastating landslides and flooded rivers in Uttarakhand... trapping tens of thousands of Hindu devotees who flock to Hindu shrines each year on pilgrimage.

“We’ve searched for him everywhere... My younger son and his friends have been to Uttrakhand twice to search for him. We showed his photos... but all in vain... (crying). May God grant a miracle so I can meet him... He should be alive somewhere..  maybe he’s crippled... handicapped... in whatever condition...”

The local government is telling people like Chauth the worst…. that it’s most likely their love ones are dead.

But Sharad’s wife Gudia Pareekh still has hope her husband will return alive.

“On the 16th last month, he called me for the last time. He said that all the vehicles in front of his taxi were submerged in water... He assured me that he’d return, maybe a little late. I pray to God for his safe return. He has to come home... to meet me and our child...”
Close relatives pay visits to the family at home ... they are all welcomed by family members... and a smiling photo of Sharad on the wall.

Sharad’s younger brother, Mohit, couldn’t stand the waiting….and went to the disaster area to try and find him.

He took footages of the floods with his mobile phone.

“The river was flowing 200 meters away... and now it’s right in the middle... there’s water everywhere. Many hotels and lodges have been washed away with the water. In the video you can see vehicles, clothes, shoes... everything was in the water. There is a foul smell everywhere with countless dead bodies. Miracles may happen, but I’m not that confident... Besides water, landslides have also added to the devastation.”

Hundreds of thousands of Hindus visit Uttarakhand's temple towns during the summer. The state is also a popular holiday destination. 

People like Shimal and Ajay Mittal head to the cooler hills to escape the summer heat. Visitors usually leave before the heavy rains of July…but this year the rains came a month early…

“It was raining heavily all over the mountains. Many streams started flowing. It was slippery everywhere, walking was almost impossible. But then we decided to leave immediately. All of a sudden, there was a landslide. We got trapped, our food finished and we had only some drops of water to drink. By the mercy of God, we survived...”

Now they’re safe at home..

“We saw many horses floating in the water... The vehicles were floating like tree leaves. On my way back, I met a lady whom I met earlier, she was with her family. But this time, she was alone. I broke down in tears, as she’s now without her children... she saw thousands of people drowning in the water.”

Several bodies found have been cremated in the affected areas... while many may have been washed away or remain burried under debris.

Officials admit, they have no easy answers to help the distraught relatives of the missing... like Manju Devi, Sharad’s mother.

“How long do I have to wait for my son? I’ve lost my faith in God. There’s no God in this world. What has my daughter-in-law done wrong so that she has been punished in this way? My children have just started living their own lives. I challenge my Goddess... if she doesn’t help me, I will throw her out of my home....”

Some environmentalists have been calling the floods a man-made catastrophe. Shimla Mittal agrees.

“There’s a growing amount of tourists, garbage and deforestation... the problem is getting worse. Many people are going on a pilgrimage to the shrines as if they were going on honeymoon. So why must we complain to God?”


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