Updated: August 12, 2021 5:22:55 am
AT LEAST ten people, including five women and a two-year-old girl, were killed and 60 others feared trapped under debris after several vehicles, including a bus carrying 24 passengers, were hit by a landslide on a highway near Nigulsari in Himachal’s Kinnaur district on Wednesday, officials said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, officials cited eyewitness accounts of large boulders tumbling down the mountain side around 12.45 pm and on to NH-5 from Kinnaur to Shimla. At least 13 people, including the state transport bus’s driver Mahinder Pal and conductor Gulab Singh, have been rescued and taken to a local hospital, they said.
Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) Regional Manager, Ajender Chaudhry, said 24 people had boarded the company’s bus at Reckong Peo. “When the landslide took place, the driver, conductor and five other passengers had stepped out to check the boulders blocking the road. All of them, except for a woman who sustained serious injuries, escaped while the rest went down with the bus,” he said.
Teams of ITBP, along with units of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), are engaged in rescue operations that continue to be hindered by falling rocks, officials said.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said 60 people were feared trapped under the debris. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have assured all help from the Centre. Thakur said that the Army, too, has offered help including the deployment of a helicopter.
Deputy Commissioner (Kinnaur), Abid Hussain Sadiq, told The Indian Express that they expect rescue operations to continue through the night. Apart from the bus, two cars, an SUV and a truck were buried under the debris, a senior police officer said.
“One car was recovered, but no one was found inside. The bus and several of its passengers have not yet been located. There is a possibility that the vehicles rolled down with the debris. Eight persons were found dead in the SUV. The truck rolled down towards the river, and the body of the driver was recovered,” the officer said.
Video: Landslide hits Himachal’s Kinnaur district, over 40 persons feared buried under debris pic.twitter.com/vFgN1XTtez
“We have cleared the debris and traffic movement has started on NH-5. We have started rescue operations near the river,” said Devinder Kumar Sharma, Commandant, 17th Battalion, ITBP.
ITBP spokesperson Vivek Pandey said they have recovered ten bodies so far. The dead have been identified as Rohit Kumar (23), Vijay Kumar (32), Meera Devi, Nitisha Singh, Prem Kumari (42), Kamlesh Kumar (34), Vanshuka (2), Devi Chand (53), Radhika Singh (22), and Gyan Dassi.
“Many people are reported trapped. Personnel of ITBP units — 43rd Battalion, 17th Battalion and 19th Battalion — started the rescue operation at the site. But the rolling stones and rubble on two sides of the approach route stopping their movement (for a while),” Pandey said.
Another police officer told The Indian Express that “a portion of the hill started to slide and huge boulders and debris fell downhill”. “The District Administration has deployed 10 ambulances and four earth movers at the site,” said a senior official of the State Disaster Management Authority.
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