Nine people — eight tourists and their driver — were killed after a boulder racing down a hill during a landslide smashed into their tempo traveller in Sangla valley of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday.
Among those killed was a 27-year-old naval officer from Darri in Chhattisgarh’s Korba district and his US-based friend; a 34-year-old woman ayurveda doctor from Jaipur; and three members of a family — a young chartered accountant, his sister, and their mother — from Sikar in Rajasthan.
A 27-year-old woman from Nagpur, Pratiksha Sunil Patil, also died in the mishap. The driver of the minibus, Umrab Singh (42), belonged to Delhi. Officials were unable to say immediately where the ninth victim, identified as Kumar Ulhas Vedpathak, was from.
Kinnaur public relations officer Narinder Sharma said the tourists had been brought to Sangla by a Delhi-based travel agency. Two of the 11 people in the vehicle — Shiril Obroy from Delhi and Naveen Bhardbaaj from Mohali — escaped with injuries.
Kinnaur Superintendent of Police S R Rana said eight of the victims were killed in the minibus that was knocked off the road and fell in a ditch; the ninth succumbed to injuries in a nearby hospital. There were four women and five men among the dead.
A 45-year-old man, Ranjeet Singh, who was working in the fields, suffered injuries.
The tourists were going from Chitkul to Sangla. They were on the Sangla-Bateseri road near Bateseri village when a massive landslide occurred in the hill above them, sending several huge boulders rolling down the slope.
Kinnaur Deputy Commissioner Abid Hussain Sadiq said it was a bright, sunny day and the landslide was unexpected. “The minibus rolled down a khud after being hit by the boulder,” he said.
A bridge on the road collapsed after another boulder fell on it. Some houses too were damaged.
Amogh Bapat (27) was a lieutenant with the Indian Navy, and had left home in Chhattisgarh for a trek a few days ago. The son of an additional chief engineer with the Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board, Amogh had served with the Navy for four years, and had come home on leave.
According to Darri police, Amogh had gone to Himachal with his childhood friend Satish Katakbar (34). “Katakbar’s family used to live in Annapurna Nagar, the CSEB colony, before they moved to Janjgir district. Satish himself lived in the United States, and had come to India on holiday,” an officer from the Korba police said.
— ANI (@ANI) July 25, 2021
Bapat’s family declined to speak about the tragedy. The family of Katakbar could not be contacted.
Dr Deepa Sharma, a resident of Mansarovar in Jaipur, had left for Himachal on Friday, members of the family said on Sunday.
“Deepa was an ayurvedic doctor. She had booked herself on the trip organised by a travel agency for a group of tourists,” Kavita Sharma, Deepa’s sister-in-law, said.
Deepa was active on Twitter, and had over 17 thousand followers on the microblogging site. Her last tweet, posted just before 1 pm on Sunday, was a photo of herself at the Nagasti post of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
“Standing at the last point of India where civilians are allowed. Beyond this point around 80 kms ahead we have border with Tibet whom china has occupied illegally,” she wrote.
किन्नौर, हिमाचल प्रदेश में हुए भूस्खलन हादसे में कई लोगों की मृत्यु के समाचार से बहुत दुख हुआ। शोक संतप्त परिवारों के प्रति मैं गहरी संवेदना व्यक्त करता हूं और घायल हुए लोगों के शीघ्र स्वस्थ होने की कामना करता हूँ।
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) July 25, 2021
On Saturday, Deepa had posted pictures of herself standing barefoot on rocks, and written, “Life is nothing without mother nature.”
Kavita said: “She (Deepa) helped many people through Twitter during the Covid-19 outbreak. She was always eager to help people.”
Anurag Biyani (31), his sister Richa Biyani (25), and their mother Maya Devi Biyani (55) had gone to Delhi from Sikar on Friday before leaving for Himachal, members of the family said.
“All three of them used to live in Mumbai. Anurag and Richa’s father, and another of their sisters, also live in Mumbai. Anurag, a chartered accountant, and his mother had come to Sikar during the lockdown, and he had since been working from our family’s home,” Ramesh Biyani, Anurag’s uncle, said.
Richa too, had come to Sikar earlier this week, and the family had gone to Himachal on holiday, Ramesh said.
Local people were the first to reach the spot of the accident, and had taken the injured to hospital by the time district administration officials arrived from Reckong Peo.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur expressed deep grief over the deaths, and directed the administration to ensure immediate relief to the affected people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences to the families. “An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives in an accident in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. Rs 50,000 would be given to the injured,” he said.