Tamil Nadu helps 157 pilgrims get back home

TN helps 157 pilgrims get back home.JPG

Chennai: The state government has established contact with 382 TN pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand and has launched efforts to rescue 14 pilgrims from Villupuram who had gone missing from Gourikund. So far 157 pilgrims out of 671 from the state have returned home.
‘We drank water like syrup’
The Kamaraj domestic air terminal was filled with an unusual exuberance on Saturday as families arrived to welcome home their loved ones, pilgrims from Tamil Nadu who had got caught in the flash floods in Uttarakhand. Seventy four persons inclu­ding 35 women from Tamil Nadu returned to Chennai in two batches by Air India flights. Another 120 reached Chennai late in the evening.
Most of the passengers were from Kumbakonam, Thanjavur and nearby areas. They were received by government officials at the airport and taken to the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT), from which point they went to their home towns, all expenses paid by the state government.

A grandfather is all smiles after being reunited with his family at the Chennai airport on Saturday. — DC
Ranganayaki (58) of Kumbakonam was a picture of grief as she descr­ibed the terrible experience of staying inside a bus for four days with limited rations without knowing whether they would live to see another day. “Every day, when we saw helicopters hovering above our heads, we expected rescue operations, but when nothing unfolded we were left scared and hopeless,” she lamented.
Other pilgrims mentioned the high prices that they had to pay for rations and other essentials during such a time of disaster. “Water bottles were sold for Rs 100 and two chapatis for Rs 250,” said Nagaraj.
“We were drinking water like syrup,” said S. Kasi of Ma­durai. He added that most of the pilgrims were senior citizens and unable to withstand the cold, were scared that they would die of it. The pilgrims were full of appreciation for TN government which acted swiftly in bringing them back home.
TN in touch with 382 pilgrims
The state government has established contact with 382 pilgrims from Tamil Nadu stranded in the rain-ravaged Uttara­khand and has launched efforts to rescue 14 pilgrims from Villupuram who had gone missing from Gourikund.
So far about 157 pilgrims out of 671 from the state have returned home. Moreover, steps are being taken to rescue the 14 persons by helicopter. Contact with one person from Ramanat­hapuram is yet to be established, according to sources. Of the 671 pilgrims, 157 have been rescued and they have reached Chennai, while 118 pilgrims have been lodged at the Tamil Nadu House in Delhi. And they will be flown home.
After chief minister J. Jayalalithaa announced that efforts would be taken on war-footing to rescue the Tamil Nadu pilgrims stranded in the Himalayan state, a team of high-level officials led by the state’s special representative in Delhi are camping in Uttarakhand and coordinated the rescue operations with the officials there.
Of the 396 pilgrims, the officials have established contact with 382 persons and they would be brought to Chennai soon. Efforts are on to rescue the remaining 14 stranded in Gourikund and they would be airlifted by a helicopter.
Mean­while, around 100 pilgrims have reached Chennai from Delhi on Saturday by a government carrier. The government had arranged accommodation for the rescued pilgrims. Efforts are taken to bring the pilgrims either by flight or train to Chennai.
 

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