Himachal rains: CM Virbhadra,1500 tourists stranded; 9 deaths reported

Heavy rains hamper rescue operations leaving tourists,locals and the CM stranded in rain.

Written by Ashwani Sharma | Shimla | Published: June 17, 2013 12:25 pm

Grim situation prevails in tribal district of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh after unprecedented rains resulted in complete disruption of roads and communication system,leaving around 1,500 tourists stranded beside state’s Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh,in past 24 hours.

So far nine deaths have been reported while state agencies are assessing actual loss to roads,houses and other properties including thousands of apple orchards,currently at fruit-wearing stage.

The state government has sought an immediate help of the Army and Indian Air Force to rescue stranded people. Two attempts by state owned helicopter to airlift chief minister and his personal staff have failed as heavy rains and clouds have reduced the visibility in the area.

State’s chief secretary told the Indian Express an hour back that the administration has been taken completely by surprise by early arrival of the monsoon and downpour is so high that it could be a record of sorts in recent year. The  landslides and avalanches have blocked important roads leaving chief minister stranded in Sangla Valley,where he had gone for campaign for upcoming Mandi bye-election.

“My top most priority is to evacuate chief minister and also the people who were stranded at Sangla ( nearly 700 ) and other pockets of Kinnaur. But,the rains are not giving us a window to fly helicopters. Entire area is cut off and no road connectivity is operational,” he said.

In view of emergency situation the Election Commission of India (ECI) has allowed plying to the state helicopter and also taking services of the IAF to airlift the stranded people,who also include locals.

Kinnaur falls under Mandi Parliamentary constituency where the bypoll was being held on June 23 for which chief minister’s wife Pratibha Singh candidate.

In Shimla,Principal Secretary (Home) Tarun Shridhar held a  meeting with top officials to review the situation and issued an alert for the locals not to venture out inview of the heavy rains and landslides.

“Horticulture sector,mainly the apples have taken a heavy toll due to snow and rains,” said Shridhar.

The areas beyond Tapri ,an entry point to Kinnaur valley ,have been cut off due to landslides on Hindustan-Tibet National Highway.As the hydro-power projects on Satluj basin have also  been affected,there is no power in many parts of Kinnaur. The water logging is creating another problem and reports are pouring in about

One person was buried under debris in landslide in Tapir,one in Yula and two in Morangin villages in the tribal district and chances of their survival are nil,he said.

About 25 foreigners and a Doordarshan team were also stranded in Kinnaur district between Namgya and Khaab,close to Tibet border as heavy rains triggered landslides at numerous places,said officials.

The election department is also facing problems to sent polling materials including EVMs to Spiti area ,which has also been affected by the hostile weather.

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