Swollen waters of the Bhagirathi following incessant overnight rains washed away a famous Shiva temple in Uttarkashi on Friday even as the state government set September 11 as the date for resumption of regular prayers at Kedarnath temple,which were suspended after the June calamity.
Efforts were also stepped up to trace Almora SDM Ajay Arora, who fell into the Mandakini while on duty near Kedarnath, with trained PAC divers flown beyond Sonprayag in Rudraprayag district to scour the river in search for him.
The weather across Uttarakhand remained generally cloudy with a fresh spell of rain lashing Dehradun in the evening, state Disaster Management and Mitigation Centre said.
Manikarnika temple, a favourite destination for devotees during the month of 'Shravan', was swept away by the waters of Bhagirathi early today as incessant rains lashed Uttarkashi on Thursday night sending the river into spate, officials said.
However, no one was hurt as the temple was empty at the time of the incident, its priest Suresh Shastri said.
The temple was built after the 1991 earthquake in Uttarkashi which had killed a large number of people.
Regular prayers at Kedarnath shrine will be resumed on September 11 on the auspicious day of Sarwartha Siddhi Amrit Yog, official sources here said.
The decision was taken here today at a meeting held by Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna with the Rawal (head priest) of the Himalayan shrine, representatives of Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, Badri-Kedar Mandir Samiti officials and senior ministers, officials said.
The date for resumption of prayers at the shrine was decided after taking approval of the priests and religious leaders who attended the meeting, they said.
However, before prayers begin at the shrine, its premises will be purged and purified as per Vedic rituals, they said.
The decision follows completion of the clean-up exercise within the interiors of the famed temple, they said.
Though areas close to the temple bore the brunt of the natural calamity, its interiors had remained almost unharmed.
Prayers at the shrine had come to a halt after the deluge struck on June 16-17, causing massive damage to life and property especially in Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Pithoragarh districts which were the worst hit.
Regular prayers at Kedarnath will start from September 11 but Char dham yatra will not be resumed before September 30, the date set by the government for road restoration work in Kedar ghati, an onerous task due to vagaries of the weather which hamper reconstruction efforts.
Meanwhile, intensified efforts to trace 45-year-old Arora have yielded no results as yet, Rudraprayag Disaster Management Officer Meera Kaintura said. NDRF personnel are also assisting in the search operation, she said.
A low-flying aerial recce over Mandakini had also been conducted by Garhwal commissioner Subardhan, DIG Amit Sinha and Rudraprayag District Magistrate Dilip Jawalkar on Thursday in search of the official but to no avail, she said.
The SDM had fallen into the river after slipping off a make-shift bridge which was made of wooden logs and very narrow, they said.
For the safety of people engaged in clean-up operations at Kedarnath, efforts are on by the PWD to build an iron bridge with railings over Mandakini, officials said.
The chief minister has also asked the department to build pre-fabricated houses for about 100 persons engaged in clean-up operations at the Himalayan shrine.
Bahuguna also spoke to Rudraprayag DM Dilip Jawalkar through video conferencing and asked him to supply rations for two months for priests, purohits, Mandir Samiti functionaries, police and administrative personnel stationed at Kedarnath.
Meanwhile, Bahuguna distributed cheques of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of 20 persons from Uttarakhand who went missing after the natural calamity in June.
Speaking at a programme held at his residential office, Bahuguna said the state government's responsibility towards the flood affected people of the state does not end with the distribution of cheques.
"Besides this one time financial assistance, we will offer all help to the affected people in the future also, so that they are able to get back on their feet," Bahuguna said.