Hero of the Uttarakhand Floods, Scarred by What he Saw
'It has been hard to sleep at night'
When the recent flood tragedy hit Uttarkhand, many helping hands came together to ensure the safety of those affected. Ramnagar resident Trilok Chand Pokhriyal is one of them.
With the help of his tractor, Pokhriyal saved many cars from being washed away or buried under debris. And as the overflowing Dhangadi nala, a rain-fed stream nearby, had made it impossible for many trapped tourists to move about, Pokhriyal welcomed many of these visitors into his home.
After his heroic and unselfish gesture of saving and helping people in the tragedy-struck area in Ramnagar, Pokhriyal, a resident of Mohan village in the district who runs a restaurant, Valley View, on NH 309 has now become a key member of the local rescue team.
“Many people stayed in my home. Most of them were total strangers to us. As their elderly mother was coming with them, a family traveling to Ramnagar asked me for a place to stay. I offered my home and promised to assist them in any way I could.
“As all of us could not stay in the house due to space constraints, my wife, the driver of one of the family, and I moved to my restaurant on the main road,” Pokhriyal tells The Citizen.
As the heavy downpour continued, nearby resorts were also in danger. Many visitors were forced to leave in the middle of the night. A few vacationers from these resorts sought refuge in his restaurant.
“We were up all night, anxiously keeping an eye on the rising water levels of the river. At around 6 am, debris had reached two rooms of my house where my mother lives. We moved people from our homes to the restaurant when we realized the danger was approaching.
“It was a delicate situation, and we knew that if someone got stranded in the houses they wouldn’t be able to get out,” he recalls.
The rising river had left visitors to the Lemon Tree, another resort near Mohan where many had gone to attend a wedding, stranded and unable to cross the Dhangadi nala. Trilok and a few locals used his trolly tractor to evacuate them.
“There were around 150-200 people whom we rescued on our trolley tractor. The first two times the tractor kept on getting lodged in excessive debris and sludge, but with the break of dawn it got easier for us to rescue with appropriate light. It took us around 10 rounds to vacate everyone,” says Pokhriyal.
The authorities were unable to reach the afflicted area, though Trilok was accompanied by Mohan’s local police. Following the ad hoc rescue, the police contacted the highway administration to continue the evacuation.
“Some fled Mohan in their cars once the water levels receded, while others watched their automobiles crumble into debris,” says Pokhriyal.
His assistance did not stop at rescuing people from immediate danger: he also helped the authorities distribute ration packages and tents to Chukam, a nearby village where approximately 25 families had been relocated after their homes were destroyed by flash flooding.
Even heroes such as Trilok Chand Pokhriyal have been left disturbed by the tragedies they experienced.
“After what we have seen, it has been hard to sleep at night. I have witnessed the 1993 disaster, 2010 disaster, and even the 2013 disaster of Uttarakhand, but never have I ever seen the river taking such a calamitous turn here, with the water level so high that it makes you feel helpless,” he sighs.