Eight labourers involved in snow clearing operations at Rani Nalla near the highest Rohtang Pass (13,500 ft.) died on Friday after a high velocity snow storm (spin drift) hit the hills. The workers of various hydel projects mainly hailing from Bihar and Jharkhand migrate to their home States due to extreme cold conditions in the tribal districts.

Even on Friday about 70 workers were trying to cross the Rohtang Pass when they were caught in high velocity icy winds and blustery weather, said sources. None of the bodies have been retrieved so far, said Mr BM Nanta deputy commissioner Kullu. He said the ADM is monitoring the rescue operations from Manali and ex-gratia grant is being provided to the victims.

The Rohtang Pass has been closed for vehicular traffic since November 9 after a heavy snowfall. Some workers had even returned to Lahaul Spiti after the sudden snow storm today. The minimum temperature at Keylong the headquarters of Lahaul Spiti was -11.4, according to the Met Department. No one from here can cross to Kullu Manali without crossing the Rohtang Pass.

About 16 people were air lifted from the high altitude district yesterday in a small chopper out of near 400 who were stranded. They were mainly officials of the government and the project owners from the area. The government is planning to pump in more helicopters to rescue the trapped commoners in the mountains, said officials.