By Harpreet Bajwa
CHANDIGARH: Forty-five students of IIT Roorkee were among 249 people rescued from Lahaul and Spiti and Kullu districts of Himachal Pradesh on September 25, as approximately 500 people remained stranded in various parts of Lahaul and Spiti alone. The Chandigarh-Manali highway was opened for traffic today as the water level of the Beas river receded at Dwada. Some places in the state have received 2,000 per cent more rainfall than normal.
An official said that 249 people, including 45 IIT Roorkee students, were rescued from Sissu and brought to Manali through the Rotang tunnel by BRO personnel. Another 21 people were rescued from Manali and brought to Kullu, while seven people were airlifted from Stingri and brought to Bhuntar airport near Kullu. Also, 1,000 food packets were airdropped at Kunjun pass and the stranded people there including truck drivers collected them.
The stranded people were being provided shelter and food by the district administration. Lahaul and Spiti had about four feet of snow until Monday. The BRO has cleared about 6 km of the Keylong-Stingri road, and work is on to clear other blocked roads. Apart from tourists, truckers and personnel of the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) are also stranded at various places in the area. Some foreigners are also stranded, near Jingjngbar, Batal, Koksar, Darcha and Sarchu, and the exact number of stranded people was yet not clear, said sources.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said that as many as 200 people were reported to be stranded at Koksar, and about 300 in Baralacha. He said that the state government had provided them food and medicines and there was no need to panic.
“Due to fresh spell of snow, Rohtang Pass and inner roads in the area got blocked, thus people, including these students who were on a trekking expedition, got stranded,” said Keylong SDM Amar Negi. He added that two IAF helicopters had been sought from the state government for rescuing the stranded people.
Also 1,200 students were stranded at Holi village in Bharmour, where they had gone for a tournament.
Due to heavy rains in the hill state in the last three days, the Beas river was flowing above the danger mark. A portion of the Chandigarh-Manali highway is under water at Dwada since Septemebr 23, and the Swarghat-Mandi and Shimla-Kalka national highways were damaged.
The gates of almost all dams of various hydroelectric projects in the state have been opened as the water level in the dams inched towards the danger mark. The gates of Chamera-I, II, III, Baira Siul, Kol, Nangal, Baspa, Shongtong and Larji dams were opened.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said that the state had suffered a loss of more than Rs 1,230 crore, excluding the recent losses due to heavy rains in the state for the last four days. Immediate financial assistance of Rs 200 crore had been sought from the Union Government for undertaking rescue and relief operations, he said.
By Harpreet Bajwa