The northern hills of Uttarakhand received a
severe jolt in the month of June, when unforeseen cloudbursts followed by
massive flash floods tore through the region, causing colossal damage to life
and livelihood. With more than 4,000 people officially listed as dead,
thousands more still missing, and scores of villages entirely washed away, the
disaster stands as one of the worst to hit the country in decades.
In the aftermath of the disaster, several relief camps have been set up to assist the victims—who have lost their loved ones, homes, and livelihoods—in the long and painful process of rehabilitation.
Chamoli district is one of the worst-hit in the region. In Chamoli alone, 6,451 families are dependent on the relief material dropped by helicopters, as many villages are still not accessible by road. More than 240 villages in these hilly tracts have been completely destroyed by flash floods and landslides.
At the relief camp in Joshimath in Chamoli, there are 99 families from Bhyundar village. Every one of the 463 people living at the camp has a grim tale to share, of loss and grief.
With the fear of an uncertain future and the sorrow of life so brutally snatched away, the people are trying their best to live, grateful they are still alive.
The way to Joshimath from Rudraprayaag.
Kaushalya Chauhan is 70. She survived the floods with her three sons, who are all married with children and staying in the same camp. She still can’t believe that her village has been completely washed away. She said, “I don't want to live like this. Why didn’t the waters take me along with it? I was married when I was 14 and have lived all my life in my home with my husband. He died 15 years ago but he died in our home. How can I die in any other home? I wish I had died in my village, in my home.”
Prahalad Singh is 63. He is ill and has cataracts in his eyes. He was alone at the time of the floods, and recalls the days as the most shocking of his life. He says he has never seen such immense destruction. He was rescued by helicopter on June 19.
Bijdender Chauhan is married with two children. He had his own land in Bhyundar which is washed away now. He had two horses and is very worried about them. He says he hasn't received any news about them so far.
Basawar Singh (on the left) is the postmaster of Bhyundar village. He and his wife Anjani Singh (right) are looking after their grandchildren. His wife is worried about the land and the home she lost to the rivers. Their younger son Sobodh Singh is 22, and is still in the village looking after their cattle.
Manisha Chauhan (left) is a student of Class 12 at the Adarsh School. She wants to study pharmaceutical sciences in Dehradun after her school. Her cousin Aditi Chauhan sleeps with her at night along with 40 other women in the same room at the relief camp.
Kanchan Singh is a 52-year-old farmer. He took a `10 lakh loan from the bank and had built his home. He lived there for one month and now his home is washed away.
Dilvar Singh is 41 years old and had a small shop selling cold drinks and snacks. His children and his wife are in the relief camp. He doesn't know where to go now from here.
Manju Chauhan (right) is living with her two granddaughters in the relief camp—10-year-old Sukanya (left) who is in Class 5, and 8-year-old Sanjana Chauhan who is in Class 2. Their mother is in the village because she can't leave their three cows. Both of the girls are very worried about their mother.
A boy looks through the glass door of the gate of the relief camp in Joshimath. The bridge that connected Bhyundar to the mainland is broken. They can't go back till the bridge is rebuilt.
The roads are blocked after the landslides in Govindghat. This is on the way to Govindghat from Joshimath.
The small streams too have become very violent after the rains in Joshimath.