Deluge-Battered Himachal: Helpless In Face Of Nature’s Fury, But Warriors At Heart

Shimla: They are helpless in the face of nature’s fury, but true warriors to save the life of others.

Scores of government functionaries are on their toes and risking their lives for over a week now to bring back the deluge-battered Himachal Pradesh to normalcy.

The frontline departments comprise the police, the state disaster response force, the electricity, the irrigation, and public health and public works.

Deluge-battered Himachal: Helpless in face of nature’s fury, but warriors at heartPhoto credits : Vishal Gulati

One of the toughest operations was carried out at the Chandertal Lake, located at an altitude of over 14,000 feet, in the snow-marooned Spiti Valley, by the police in coordination with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

A total of 290 tourists had been stranded in the Chandertal since July 8 owing to torrential rains that triggered landslides and snapped most of the road links in the Lahaul-Spiti district, the state’s cold desert where a sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions.

The police team risked their lives to ensure that critical patients were airlifted on time.

Finally, all tourists, including foreigners and local shepherds, were evacuated on July 13 by road after clearing dumps of snow from a mountain pass.

A video shared by the state police on Monday showed a clipping of evacuation of seven tourists, who were in need of medical emergency, from the Chandertal in Barashingri Glacier at an elevation of 4.3 km by IAF’s Mi-17 V5, considered to be one of the world’s most modern transport helicopters.

According to the IAF, the evacuation was carried out at 1730 hrs on July 11. The pickup zone was in a glacier with no landing place and loose snow. The operation was daring owing to sloping terrain, and to ensure wheels don’t sink.

The rescue was carried out with one wheel touching on snow and the other two wheels in the air.

Due to treacherous terrain, no communication with ground, no wind indication and no place to land, the pickup zone was extremely challenging for any kind of landing or winching operations, says the IAF.

Because of this being a mercy mission and to save civilian lives, a one-time operation was successfully undertaken, it says.

The evacuation of the remaining tourists in vehicles began on July 13 after the snow-clearing operation on a 30-km stretch between Losar and the Kunzum Pass, the gateway to the lake, was over.

Heavy rains lashed Himachal Pradesh from July 7-11, causing extensive damage to all infrastructure, including road network.

Deluge-battered Himachal: Helpless in face of nature’s fury, but warriors at heartPhoto credits : Vishal Gulati

The BRO said they received information about 300 people stranded at the Chandertal because of multiple blockages on the road towards Manali on one side and snowfall in Kunzum Pass, located at an altitude of 4,550m on the road towards Kaza on the other side.

A joint team of BRO personnel and the civil administration was formed to rescue the tourists. Even though continued bad weather compounded by disrupted mobile communication hampered the efforts, the team headed towards the Chandertal on July 12.

A passage for vehicles was cleared by the BRO through the fresh snowfall on the Kunzum Pass which made the advance rate very slow.

The rescue team relentlessly worked throughout the day and well into midnight to reach the camping site at the Chandertal where the tourists were stranded, said the BRO.

Evacuation of tourists was then started on the snow paved road through the Kunzum Pass in the wee hours of July 13.

It continued till noon when all the tourists safely reached Losar village, the nearest habitation.

They were subsequently moved further down to Kaza, the headquarters of Spiti, in buses pre-positioned by the state administration, successfully culminating the rescue operation spanning over two days in the most challenging conditions, it added.

Likewise, a team of the 14th NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) tirelessly conducted rescue operations at Sangarh village in the Sainj Valley in Kullu district on July 16-17 and rescued 24 stranded people.

It also conducted operations in Manikaran valley and evacuated 289 people under supervision of Baljinder Singh, Commandant 14th NDRF.

The total people, largely Israelis and Russians, evacuated from the valley till July 15 were 5,070.

In a video shared by the state police on its twitter handle showed how a machine was making its way through the debris in order to clear it for transport and workers had a brush with death as huge boulders started rolling down the hill and crashed with their excavator.

“Though we are dealing with these situations, day-to-day and hour-to-hour. Landslides in Mandi, cloudbursts in Kullu, but our dedication and your good words keep us going. Jai Hind,” tweeted the police.

Responding to visuals of the scary video, Sakshi Verma Karthikeyan, Superintendent of Police, who is posted in Kullu, tweeted, “Himachal is not my janmabhoomi (birthplace). This happens every day in Himachal. In other states this would be big news but not in HP. People here are used to this, they just fight back the hardships thrown at them by nature.” “Proud of my karmabhoomi (workplace),” she added.

Joining the issue, another Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Karthikeyan Gokulachandran said, “Training is not the only requirement for a safe rescue, it’s about intuition, quickness of mind, and using the available resources. Sometimes the locals are able to rescue better because they face these situations on a daily basis.”

A video of Mandi Superintendent of Police Soumya Sambasivan helping first-aid to a rescuer has gone viral. So are videos of policemen making way for traffic through the slush.

Deluge-battered Himachal: Helpless in face of nature’s fury, but warriors at heartPhoto credits : Vishal Gulati

Saluting the spirit of dedication, daring and hard work, Deputy Chief Minister Mukesh Agnihotri said the drinking water schemes have suffered the biggest loss due to severe floods.

“In this critical situation, the people of the department have done a commendable job of restoring the schemes by working day and night and risking their lives,” he said.

He said Jal Shakti Department employees rebuild drinking water schemes by entering rivers and rivulets. Till July 16, they managed to restore 4,623 schemes.

Agnihotri, who holds the portfolio of Jal Shakti Vibhag, said the department has suffered losses of Rs 1,411 crore due to floods and landslides.

People shared videos of daring of Jal Shakti Vibhag’s pump attendant Kapil, who is posted in Sangrah division of Sirmaur district, restoring a water supply scheme by braving a sharp waterfall.

A team of the state disaster rescue force in Mandi rescued a stranded cow near the swollen Beas river. In a late-night rescue operation, NDRF team rescued six people who were stranded in the Beas near Nagwain village in Mandi district due to the rise in the water level of the river.

Saying the state faced the worst calamity in 50 years, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Sukhu on Sunday launched the Aapda Rahat Kosh — 2023 website, a digital platform aimed at aiding the disaster-affected people of the state.

Courtesy : “IANS”

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