Kedarnath shrine safe, everything else destroyed: official

Dehradun, June 20 (IANS) The ancient Kedarnath shrine has survived the devastating floods in Uttarakhand but virtually everything around it has been destroyed, an official of the temple committee said Thursday.

"Call it a miracle but the Nandi statue and the other idols in the temple are intact," the official told IANS.

"In fact, those pilgrims who were in the temple during the tragedy also survived.

"But the destruction all around the temple has been terrible," said the official, adding that the real death toll in the floods and cloudburst of the weekend would be much more than the officially stated 150.

But he admitted that the temple had suffered some damage.

The official said there was no trace of a large number of pilgrims who were either headed to or returning from the shrine, built by Adi Shankara around 1,000 years ago.

He said Ram Bada, located about seven kilometres from the temple, had been destroyed. So was the case with Gaurikund where there was a parking lot and a rest house.

"There were an estimated 5,000 people at Ram Bada when a cloudburst took place," he said.

"The shops and houses around Kedarnath temple have been either destroyed or severely damaged," said the official.

"From the reports we are getting, I don't think the Kedarnath pilgrimage can restart for two to three years," he added.

According to the official, 1,000 to 2,000 pilgrims were rescued from the temple region Wednesday. "The rescue operations are still going on."

Meanwhile, the Shri Badrinath-Shri Kedarnath Temple Committee has appealed for donations.

It said that due to heavy landslides and heavy rains, the route to both the shrines had been damaged.

"To overcome this natural calamity, the temple committee requests the devotees around the world to come forward (and) donate."

The Kedarnath temple is one of the most revered shrines in India and is visited by millions every year.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has said he was numbed by the magnitude of the tragedy. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Wednesday put the number of people stranded in Uttarakhand at some 62,000.

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