In view of bad weather conditions, the rescue operations in the rain-ravaged tribal Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh were hampered on Sunday, with the state choppers and two IAF helicopters had to wait till noon to begin sorties to Nako, Pooh and other remote areas.
A team of National Disaster Management Response Force (NDRF), positioned at Sangla, started evacuation of stranded people by road to bring them to the base camp at Karchham but it would take at least six hours as the road was washed away or blocked due to debris and some of the patches were perilous, officials said.
“The first batch of dozen tourists, stranded in the picturesque Sangla Valley for the past eight days left on foot for Karchham with assistance from 14-member rescue team of the NDRF,” R.K. Bhardwaj, who is assisting the rescue operation in Sangla, said.
The tourists are being taken to Karchham by the route adopted by trekkers which was 7 km longer as compared to road distance of 18 km but some patches are really dangerous, he added.
So far, the focus was on evacuating the tourists, sick and aged persons but now pressure from local people for evacuation was mounting and the number of people still waiting for airlifting might increase, officials said.
The state and IAF choppers had evacuated 902 people till last evening. However, over 500 people, including 250 tourists who remained stuck in Sangla, are awaiting evacuation.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who turned 79 on Sunday, did not celebrate his birthday and is camping in Rampur.
As per initial reports, the state government has assessed the loss of roads, water supply schemes, crops and property to Rs. 1,450 crore and sought immediate assistance from the Union government.
More than 2000 roads have been damaged by rains in the state, mainly in Kinnaur, Kaza and Sirmaur district and the loss was assessed to Rs. 600 crore.
So far, 20 persons have lost their lives in Kinnaur and two each have died in Shimla and Sirmour districts.
More than 10,000 animals have gone missing and feared to have perished due to the untimely snowfall and heavy rains in Kinnaur.
Incidentally, Kinnaur received 1229 per cent excess rains this time while Sirmour district had 151 per cent more rainfall with Paonta Sahib receiving 405 mm rains on a single day last week.