Torrential rain has wreaked havoc on an unprecedented scale in Himachal Pradesh. Several vital bridges got tossed up in the flash flood fury while multi-storey buildings, especially those on the banks of rivers, collapsed in a blink of an eye leaving the hill state severely battered for the past 48 hours.
Devastating floods in the rivers like Beas, Satluj, Ravi, Chenab (Chandra Bhaga) and other overflowing tributaries viz Uhl, Parvati, Tirthan and Sainj due to widespread rains have left thousands of people stranded.
Massive landslides on the National Highway viz Parwanoo-Shimla, Kiratpur-Manali and Pathankot-Mandi and also on strategic Shimla-Reckong Peo have brought life to a standstill as shooting boulders and stones endeared the lives of passengers.
Two major hydro-power projects – Nathpa Jhakri (1500 MW) and Rampur (412 MW) on Satluj River were shut down because of very high silt as flood water also entered Larji (126) MW) project. This could, eventually, hit power availability in the northern region, besides the weather that hit Himachal Pradesh.
The opening of the flood gates at Pandoh Dam resulted in massive floods in Beas River where the gushing river water washed away the historic Panchvaktra bridge at Mandi town.
Birbal Sharma, a veteran journalist and writer, said that natives of Mandi say Beas River flooding has broken a 75-year-old record. The Panchvaktra temple, the ancient shrine, located on the river also got submerged in the water.
Half a dozen other bridges including the landmark Aut bridge connecting the interiors of the Banjar area in Kullu were swept away. The flash floods at Thunag in Mandi also wreaked havoc. Other areas affected by the flash floods include Manikaran – a holy place of Sikhs and Hindus – and the potato ground of Manali and Gohar (Mandi).
Another important bridge at Koku-Nallah connecting Shimla with apple-growing areas of Kotkhai and Rohru also got damaged.
Manali, the famous tourist destination, was completely cut off due to the washing away of a connecting road with neighbouring Kullu. There is also no upward or downward movement of vehicles possible from the Rohtang tunnel (Atal tunnel) or Keylong for now. In Kullu, there is no electricity or water supply for the past two days.
Massive silt and turbidity in the rivers have brought the lifting of the water at five different sources of Shimla town to a grinding halt. The water has been rendered unfit for consumption. The capital town has gone without water supply for the past two days and is likely to remain severely impacted. The lifting of water has dropped from 44 MLD to 11 MLD, even less than in 2018 when Shimla struggled for potable water for at least 10 days. Only one MLD of water was lifted today.
The authorities of Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam have been asking the citizens to collect rainwater which will be safe for drinking till the water supply is restored to the town.
Several roads in Shimla town have been blocked due to landslides and fallen trees.
Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, who was awake till 4 am this morning, said he has asked all the Deputy Commissioners and officials of the Disaster Management Authority to rush immediate help to the people and start restoration works for road connectivity, and reliefs. “I have set up a committee to keep an eye on the situation in the state as more rains are expected in the next 24 hours. The legislators have been told to camp in their constituencies and help out the public and ensure that they are ‘compensated for their losses,” he said.
Prime minister Narendra Modi also spoke to Chief Minister Sukhu, got details of the situation and extended full help to the flood-hit state. More than 14 people have been killed in Himachal’s calamity so far during the past 48 hours while the total death toll due to rains rose to 54. The rains and flash floods have caused maximum damage in Manali, Kullu, Kinnaur and Chamba. More than 850 roads have been blocked or washed away beside damages caused to 785 water schemes.
According to MeT officials, this year’s rain has broken many records in Himachal Pradesh, but particularly the rainfall in Manali, Solan and Rohru broke all previous records.
The state government has declared a holiday in all educational institutions for July 10 and 11. The Himachal High Court and all district courts have also declared a holiday for Monday.
The NDRF team carried out the relief operations and rescued tourists stuck in Lahaul-Spiti and Kullu. The rescued tourists include Ajay Sharma, Arun Sharma, Manish Sharma and Roshan Lal from Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir and Anuj and Vishnu from Assam.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also spoke to Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on the phone on Sunday late evening and requested to provide help to the people from Haryana, who were stranded in different parts of the state and could not be contacted.
Sukhu also monitored the rescue operation of about 29 people trapped in Manali's potato ground and about 200 tourists stranded near Chandratal Lake in the Lahaul and Spiti districts. With the efforts of the rescue team, these 29 people trapped in Manali were rescued by 8 AM today.
"I have directed the state administration to ensure all possible measures regarding the rescue of stranded people. I am constantly in touch with the local authorities and the public representatives and personally monitoring the situation and our government is with the people of the State in this hour of distress. I appeal to the people to avoid travelling unnecessarily and avoid venturing out near the streams and the rivers," said Sukhu.
Additional DGP (CID) Satwant Atwal, who is holding the charge of Director General of Police said " All SPs in the districts have been told to keep the police teams ready for any eventualities to help the people. The police, indeed, have been on the forefronts already in rescue and relief operations ever since the rains and flash floods crisis"
Former Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said he had spoken to Sukhu and extended all help to the government. "I have also spoken to union home minister Amit Shah and requested him to provide more NDRF battalions and also sent air force helicopters to help," he said.