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One year on, Kedar still haunts

- Rathi family recalls day when near ones were washed away by flood

Sambalpur, June 16: One year has glided by since the Himalayan tsunami in Kedarnath swept away 17 members of the town’s Rathi family. However, for the survivors in the family, it’s like it happened just yesterday.

Erasing the memory of the tragedy seems to be an impossible task to them.

Nineteen members of the Rathi family began their journey for Kedarnath from Jharsuguda on June 8 last year. They reached Kedarnath on June 15 after visiting the holy towns of Gangotri and Jamunotri on the way.

They put up in the guest house and visited the shrine next morning. Everything was going smooth till then. But, the tragedy struck next day when Kedarnath was deluged by the Himalayan tsunami washing away 17 members of the family. Only Suraj Ratan Rathi and his brother-in-law, Binod Mantri, survived. While 70-year-old Suraj still lives in his Khetrajpur house in the town here, fighting the ghosts of the past everyday, Mantri is based in Calcutta.

Suraj recalls that they were supposed to leave Kedarnath on June 16 but decided to stay back in the Rajasthan guest house there following an alert by the local administration that the road leading out of the town had been blocked. The next day was apocalypse.

“It was around 6.45am. We had not finished our morning tea when I heard a sound outside and rushed toward the window to see what was happening. I was shocked to see buildings crashing and houses being washed away by flood waters. My family members were washed away right in front of my eyes and I could do nothing. Everything was over in just 15 minutes,” said Suraj.

“I reached Sambalpur on June 22. My sons were keen to go and look for the missing family members. I told them they would never return. It was like end of the world,” said he.

He also spoke about his struggle in the next three days at Kedarnath. “We had only around Rs 20 in hand when we reached Guptkashi to contact our family members back home. I can’t forget those harrowing days,” said Suraj.

Suraj is now struggling to lead a normal life. “Life has changed a lot after the incident. My wife, who had been there with me for 45 years, is no more. Life is tough without her,” said the old man. His younger brother, Siv Kumar Rathi, said: “The scars of last year are still afresh. We can’t forget the incident.”