A thirty-year-old tourist from Uttar Pradesh died at Chhota Dara crossing in Lahaul-Spiti district while over 400 tourists remain stranded following unseasonal snowfall and heavy rainfall in Himachal Pradesh, in the last 48 hours.
Spiti and Lahaul Valley are experiencing unexpected snowfall in the area throwing life out of gear. Temperatures have dropped to 0.1-degree celsius.
“According to our records, snowfall in Spiti during this period is coming after 11 years. The last snowfall in Spiti (during this period) was in 2008. There is no record about Lahaul valley before, thus it is unusual,” Dr Manmohan Singh, Director, IMD Shimla said.
“The exact cause of death is not yet known. The body of the deceased has been brought to district hospital Keylong for a post-mortem. Arrangements are being made to evacuate his body but road communications remain disrupted. The youth’s family has been contacted,” Sub-Divisional Magistrate (Keylong) Amar Negi told indianexpress.com.
Over 150 tourists were stranded in Spiti and Chandertal while around 200 were stuck in Lahaul. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) teams rescued 150 people, including foreign tourists and labourers.
According to Negi, supervising the emergency measure and opening of blocked roads, Pagal Nullah is among the state’s most dangerous crossing. Several roads which were vital links to Spiti and Keylong, besides other mountain passes, have either been washed away or blocked following landslides.
Principal Secretary (Revenue) Onkar Sharma said: “Efforts are underway to clear the roads and restore ground communication. There have been problems at Chhota Dara, Chhatru, Pagal Nullah and Gramphu where tourists vehicles are stranded.
“Those stranded have been taken to safe places with the help of rescue teams of the district administration and BRO. Few were also given medicines and first aid. Unfortunately, one person died. The cause of death will be known only after post-mortem“ Sharma, who also heads the state’s Disaster Management Authority, added.
Agriculture Minister and Lahaul-Spiti MLA Dr Ram Lal Markanda said snowfall has caused extensive damage to cash crops in the valley. “Entire crop of peas, cauliflower and apple has been severely hit by the unexpected weather and snow”. Farmers in Spiti and Lahaul have a limited period of six months for cash crops, which are marketed before winters.
“I have spoken to Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to deploy a helicopter to rescue stranded people. If weather permits, we will be able to evacuate the tourists,” Markanda added.
Meanwhile, at least 24 people were killed in rain-related incidents in the state. The road network in most of the state has been disrupted. National Highway 3 between Manali and Kullu has been damaged following heavy rainfall while Rohtang Pass, which also experienced snowfall Sunday, is blocked.
The MeT department has predicted more rains in Himachal Pradesh. Schools and other educational institutions have been closed in Shimla and other districts of Kangra, Chamba and Kullu.