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400 tourists stuck in snow at Rohtang Tunnel rescued in night-long operation

400 vehicles were rescued safely from the South portal of Rohtang Tunnel, Manali which were stranded due to snowfall in Manali &Lahaul Spiti.

Shimla: Just a day before new year celebrations begin at hill destinations, Himachal Pradesh police rescued more than 400 tourists’ vehicles at the 10,000 feet high Atal Rohtang Tunnel, braving freezing cold and season’s first heavy snowfall.

The operation continued almost the whole night till 3 am on Friday morning, confirmed Superintendent of police Lahual-Spiti Manav Verma .

Rohtang Tunnel has become the biggest tourist attraction in Manali after its inauguration in 2020 and provides all weather connectivity to the tribal population in Lahaul-Spiti.

After the snowfall the road leading to the Tunnel from Sissu in Lahual-Spiti got blocked even as nearly 5,650 tourist vehicles had already crossed the tunnel to the north -portal. The police immediately got into action and started a rescue operation to rescue the tourists, including women and children, caught up in a massive traffic jam.

Rescue teams were requisitioned from Manali and Keylong to safely evacuate the tourists hailing from different states.  They were brought to Manali safely by 3 am.

Some of the tourists rescued at Rohtang Tunnel admit that they had a harrowing time in the freezing cold on Thursday evening. Had it not been for help from the police, many of them could have frozen to death in their vehicles stuck-up on the road.

“ We thought of having a fun with snow but did not realise the risks of getting stranded.Thanks to the efforts of the police and administration, we reached our hotel safely post-midnight,” admits Keshav Dogra, a tourist from Gurgaon,who along with his wife and two kids was struck at north portal.

Senior officials point out that despite the warning issued by the police advising tourists not to proceed towards Rohtang as snowfall is likely to cause road disruptions and blockade, they refused to adhere to the advisories.

At the same time, due to sudden change of weather, the Lahaul-Spiti valley along with Solang Nullah has been covered with fresh snowfall. The Manali-Leh road connecting Lahaul has also been closed due to fresh snowfall in the Atal Tunnel.The movement of vehicles on more than 100 roads in Lahaul has been completely blocked.

Most tourist destinations –Shimla, Kullu-Manali, McLeodganj, Dalhousie , Dharamshala and Fagu-Narkanda are packed as new year revellers reach in advance hoping for snowfall on the weekends.

Nikhil Thakur, a hotelier in Manali, said, “After two years of Covid, the industry is expecting a good business. The snowfall has always been a boon for the hoteliers. We keep getting inquiries about the snowfall from all over the country during the winter months. Many tourists plan their trips are per MeT forecasts”

There has been snowfall at Fagu, Kufri, Narkanda and Hatu Peak along with drizzle on the Ridge in Shimla– capital town.

A total of 11,188 vehicles crossed Atal Tunnel in 24 hours from 8 am on Thursday to

8 am on Friday. As many as 5,540 vehicles entered Lahaul valley through the tunnel and 5,548 returned.

Only two days back, Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu had ordered Deputy Commissioners and district SPs to facilitate movements of the tourists and ensure they don’t face any problems.

“The tourists should also take suitable precautions to avoid visiting high risk snow places and must adhere to advisories being issued by the police” he said .

Meanwhile the government has taken a decision to allow restaurants, dhabas, tea stalls and eateries to remain open 24X7  till the night of January 2 (Monday), to facilitate the tourists visiting the state.

Also Read: Atal Tunnel Enters World Book Of Records As The World’s Longest Tunnel | Atal Tunnel Rohtang |