The Times of India – 8 Sikh pilgrims, including 2 US citizens, swept away by Alaknanda, confirms rescue team

Dehra Dun-Uttarakhand-India, 15 July 2017. The eight missing people from Amritsar, including two NRIs based in the USA, who had come to offer prayers at the Hemkund Sahib gurdwara, were feared drowned after joint rescue teams recovered traces of the SUV in which they were travelling and several belongings of the devotees near the Taiya Bridge, about 2.5 km from Govindghat in Chamoli district.

Officials suspect the vehicle was swept away in the Alaknanda river.

“Relatives of the missing people had reached Chamoli on Thursday. They have identified two turbans and a car beading that were recovered by our search and rescue teams. We have also found a logo of the vehicle and pieces of broken glasses from the spot,” said Tripti Bhatt, superintendent of police (SP), Chamoli.

“The family members have especially identified the golden-colored car beading which they claimed was installed in the white Toyota Innova only a week before the eight had left for the pilgrimage,” SP Bhatt added.

According to Chamoli police, Harkewal Singh and Premjeet Singh, both US citizens, had come for the Hemkund Sahib yatra along with their relatives, Pala Singh alias Kripal Singh, Gora Singh alias Arvinder Singh, Harpal Singh, Kulbeer Singh, Jasveer Singh and Mahenga Singh, the vehicle’s driver.

Harpal and Gora are from Dalla village in Gurdaspur while the others are from Chowk Mehta area in Amritsar. They had left Amritsar on July 1 and reached Govindghat in Chamoli on July 3. They started their trek towards Hemkund Sahib gurdwara on July 4 and it is likely that returned to Govindghat on July 5.

They were last heard of on July 6 when the vehicle’s driver, Mahenga, made a call to his family to inform them about his visit to the shrine. The eight people have been untraceable since then.

The matter came to light when a family member, Lovepreet Singh, had reported the issue to Punjab police on Wednesday, who got in touch with their counterparts in Chamoli district. A missing complaint was lodged at the Govindghat police station in Chamoli after which a search hunt was initiated.

Chamoli police, along with the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), were pressed into service to look for the missing pilgrims.

“The strong current of Alaknanda and heavy rainfall hindered rescue operations. We will continue searching for the missing pilgrims,” said SP Bhatt.

Meanwhile, relatives of the missing people left for Amritsar on Friday.


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