Himachal Pradesh landslide: Death toll surges, rescue operations underway

At least 13 people were killed and 60 others feared trapped under debris after several vehicles, including a bus carrying 24 passengers, were hit by a landslide on a highway near Nigulsari in Himachal’s Kinnaur district on Wednesday, officials said. The number of dead may further increase as a bus and the Bolero and its passengers are still untraceable.

As per a video which was widely shared on social media, first, shooting stones fell down the mountainside into the river below, creating small splashes of water. Warming whistles were heard and then a big chunk of the mountain collapsed on National Highway 5 and into the river. Teams of ITBP, along with units of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), are engaged in rescue operations that continue to be hindered by falling rocks, officials said. District officials, search and rescue teams including members of local police, home guards, NDRF, ITBP and a medical team are at the incident site. Ten ambulances, four earth removers, 52 personnel of the ITBP’s 17th Battalion, 30 personnel of police and 27 NDRF personnel are carrying out the rescue operation. Fighting to complete the operation before nightfall, rescue workers struggled to pull out survivors and bodies from the debris near Chaura village in Nigulsari area of Nichar tehsil.

Hours after the landslide a little before noon, Kinnaur Deputy Commissioner Abid Hussain Sadiq said 10 bodies had been pulled out but there others feared trapped. Eight of the dead were found trapped in a Tata Sumo taxi, according to state Disaster Management Director Sudesh Kumar Mokhta. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences in a tweet,” The landslide tragedy at Kinnaur is very saddening. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives. May the injured recover at the earliest. Rescue operations are underway and everything possible is being done to assist those still trapped.” The PM has also announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each from PMNRF to the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to a landslide in Himachal Pradesh. Rs. 50,000 would be given to the injured.