Devotees hit by ‘worst rain’ in 35 yrs

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With continuous rain breaking the record of over 35 years, the Kumbh Mela became a picture of chaos here on Saturday with tents getting uprooted, camps getting flooded and the ruined checkered plates hampering vehicle movement. The worst hit among the devotees were lakhs of kalpvasis, who spend the entire month of Magh on the banks of Sangam living a spiritual life in simple tents.

The meteorological department said that the city has received 55.6 mm of rain in the last 24 hours, ending 5.30 pm on Saturday. It said that the rainfall for the month of February was among the highest for a single day in around 35 years. More rains and thundershowers are forecast for Sunday too. The rain continued throughout the evening. Swami Hari Chaitanya Brahmchari of Tikafmafi ashram said, "As far as I can remember, this is the worst spell of rain after 1977. In that year, during Magh Mela, it had rained continuously from Mauni Amavasya to Basant Panchami."

Meanwhile, the administration claimed that they were doing everything possible to evacuate the devotees. At least 15,000 people were evacuated from the Mela area in buses since Friday evening. The administration had ear-marked at least 26 schools where the devotees could be put up if needed. "All our officials, including the Mela Officer and the SSP were on ground. The situation is being continuously monitored," said an information department official. He added, however, that continuous rain hampered the relief work.

The major chunk of kalpvasis are located in camps across Sector-10 of the Mela area, while several smaller enclaves of kalpvasis are putting up in Sectors 7,8,9 and 11.

"They are facing difficulties from two sides. Their tents, which are wet, have become heavy, leading to the ropes and the other support structures snapping up, besides leakage. On the other hand, the water is entering into their tents from the roads," said Ajay Pandey, head of the Prayagwal Sabha (a body of priests, who manage the kalpvasis' stay at Sangam every year). "We have tried to get arrangements in place to prevent water from entering the camps. But there is no respite from the rain. The administration too is only busy with the babas and not worrying about the kalpvasis," Pandey said.

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