Shimla: All 290 tourists, mostly from Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal, stranded at Chandratal in the high altitude district of Lahaul-Spiti, were finally brought to safety on Thursday after a four-day long tough rescue operation.
The state’s Revenue Minister Jagat Singh Negi and Chief Parliamentary Secretary Sanjay Awasthi reached Chandratal at around 2 am, riding a JCB road clearing machine after being advised by Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu to lead the rescue operation from the front.
Officials said Negi reached Chandertal after almost 18 hours as the road rescue teams struggled to clear the route, covered under three to four feet of snow, through Kunzum pass to Chandratal.
“Chandratal, known for its moon lake, was under four feet of fresh snow and the place was reeling under sub-zero conditions. The movement of the tourists in 58 vehicles began early this morning in different batches. The last batch of vehicles left Chandratal for Losar at 2.30 pm that finally cleared the place of all tourists” confirmed Satwant Atwal Trivedi, Additional DGP (CID), who is officiating as Director General of police .
Earlier two days back, seven sick persons including two elderly and a girl, were airlifted to Bhunter.
The Chief Minister himself had done an earlier survey of the Chandratal and dropped his minister and Chief Parliamentary secretary at the post asking them to return only when the spot is cleared of all stranded tourists.
“The tourists were safe but the conditions were highly miserable. The Indian Airforce helicopter pilots could not operate as there was no safe landing site at the spot. I thereafter decided to organise a ground operation. I assure you that every single person stranded will be safely evacuated, ” Sukhu told India Narrative.
The Chief Minister told journalists at Kullu that 60,000 persons have been rescued by the administration during the past 60 hours from different places ravaged by flash floods and landslides triggered by incessant rains.
He said that the Israeli embassy had informed about the number of its nationals stranded at Kasol and nearby areas and asked for their evacuations.
“Our teams are in tough conditions with them and offered them aerial evacuation but many of them were not willing and wanted to stay on. We have left the matter up to the Embassy to airlift them on their own or the government will organise the evacuation” he said.
Six Israelis have been brought to Manikaran and 37 Israelis are at Barshaini, and all of them are safe.
Five foreign nationals from Russia and Taiwan stranded at Manali were also facilitated to return to Delhi this afternoon.
In an equally daring rescue operation 118 tourists, including 60 foreigners were airlifted from Sangla in Kinnaur as they were stranded at this tourist destination close to the China border.
Massive landslides and flash floods caused by a cloud burst had created havoc in the area and snapped all road communications.
Meanwhile, Israel Deputy Chief of Mission Ohad Nakash Kaynar tweeted on Thursday, “Going to Himachal Pradesh on the Director General and Ambassador’s directive to try and reconnect with Israeli tourists who are in flooded areas like Kasol, Kalga and Pulga”
“A total of 1,020 roads are still blocked in the state, while 2,498 transformers and 1,244 water supply schemes have been disrupted,” an official of the state emergency operation centre said on Thursday.
As many as 88 people have died in rain-related incidents and road accidents since the onset of monsoon in the state on June 24, and 100 people suffered injuries and 16 are still missing.
A total of 170 houses have been damaged completely and 594 partially, the state emergency operation centre said.
Officials said bus services are suspended on 1,128 Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation routes and 302 buses are held up en route.
“Our priority is to evacuate the stranded and restore the communication network,” Principal Secretary (Disaster management) Onkar Chand Sharma said after reviewing the situation.
Meanwhile 20 bodies of the persons missing during the flash floods and rains have been recovered in Kullu, out of which 11 bodies have not been identified.
The electricity, water supply and telecom services have been partially restored at Kullu—which has suffered major devastation.
The traffic on Parwanoo-Shimla National highway has also been restored, helping in the resumption of essential supplies like milk , bread, vegetables, curd and newspapers to Shimla—the capital of Himachal Pradesh
Shimla has been without water supply for the past five days after the floods and incessant rains in the state.