Workers brave snow to rebuild flood-ravaged Kedarnath Temple

Workers brave snow to rebuild flood-ravaged Kedarnath Temple

By: || Updated: 19 Jan 2015 04:52 AM
Kedarnath (Uttarakhand): The revered temple town of Kedarnath in Uttarakhand, which was ravaged in flash floods in June 2013, is being rebuilt ahead of an annual pilgrimage despite extreme weather conditions.


The popular pilgrimage route known as the "Char Dham Yatra" because of its four temple towns of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri - attracts hundreds of thousands of devotees every year.


The floods, triggered by heavier than normal and early monsoon rains, killed at least 822 people and displaced tens of thousands of inhabitants in Uttarakhand, a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims due to its shrines and temples.


Nearly 6,000 people went missing and more than 4,600 of the missing in Uttarakhand had come from elsewhere in India.


Now, reconstruction work is in full swing as the workers, well-protected with enough layers in sub-zero temperatures, continue to work undeterred.


State authorities have approved a reconstruction and rehabilitation plan for Kedarnath, one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus. It is banking on the recommendations of the Geological Survey of India for planning reconstruction and rehabilitation work at Kedarnath.


The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) is one such organisation which has been entrusted with the task of reconstruction of the town.


A team of 290 people from NIM is deployed at the site besides the police and army personnel.


Principal of NIM, Colonel Ajay Kothiyal, said on Saturday (January 17) they were racing against time to complete the reconstruction work.


"We are trying to work as much as we can to save time before the pilgrimage tour commences, and that is why we are working in winter is extreme conditions. It is obvious that we cannot work exactly the way we do in normal weather, but yes, at-least 60 per cent of the work could be completed in the snow," said Kothiyal.


He said Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat and the additional chief secretary were being briefed regularly about the work progress.


A helipad has also been built in the town to enable Indian Air Force's Mi-26 choppers to carry construction materials and equipments at the sites. Various construction machines including tractors, dumpers and snow-cutter have been brought in.


But the weather plays truant with construction work gets hampered by the dipping temperatures and snowfall.


The workers were seen clearing the snow and resuming the work. Food and other necessary items for the next three months have also been stocked for the workers.


Kedarnath Legislator Sheila Rani Rawat said, "I want the pilgrimage tour should continue as it used to before the disaster. In this extreme cold weather and snowfall people are working for its reconstruction with full spirit. The district administration is also dedicated to the reconstruction work."


The shrine was closed on October 25, 2014 and is expected to reopen on April 25 this year.


There is no official figure for the overall economic loss caused by the floods, but aid workers in the disaster zone estimate stretches of around 1,650 roads were damaged, including state and national highways. Around 150 bridges, over 2,000


houses and around 1,000 drinking water sources were also destroyed or damaged.


The tourism and services sector, a mainstay of the local economy, were decimated and needed long-term support.


The disaster, dubbed a "Himalayan tsunami" by officials and media, prompted one of the largest airlifts in the history of the Indian air force, as helicopters flew hundreds of sorties to rescue residents and pilgrims and drop thousands of kilograms of relief material.


More than 100,000 people were rescued by the air force and security force personnel on the ground.

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