Even as heavy rains continued to lash Himachal Pradesh on Thursday, a fresh landslide was reported in Kullu, destroying several houses with many people feared to be trapped inside. At least eight buildings that had developed cracks and were declared unsafe following recent rains collapsed in the Anni area.
The fresh bout of rainfall has so far claimed 12 lives and blocked over 400 roads. All schools and colleges have been closed for two days beginning Wednesday in Shimla, Mandi and Solan districts.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) on Wednesday issued a 'red alert' predicting "heavy to very heavy rainfall with isolated spells of extremely heavy rains" in six of the state's 12 districts including Shimla for the next 24 hours. A moderate-to-high flash flood warning has been extended to nine districts —Shimla, Sirmaur, Kangra, Chamba, Mandi, Hamirpur, Solan, Bilaspur and Kullu.
"Since the beginning of the rainy season, 361 people have been killed so far and 40 are still missing. Over 12,000 houses have been damaged, out of which 2200 have been completely destroyed," says Himachal Pradesh Revenue and Disaster Management Principal Secretary Onkar Chand Sharma on devastation caused by heavy rains in the state.
Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu appealed to the people to remain vigilant in view of the heavy rain forecast and not to travel during night hours.
Closure of stone crushers near Beas river
Amid incessant rainfall, the state government has decided to immediately stop the operations of all stone crushers on both perennial and non-perennial rivulets of the Beas river basin and its tributaries. The decision has been taken after considering the alarming transformation of the ecosystem during the current monsoon which saw excessive heavy rainfall and landslides, wreaking havoc downstream in the Beas river basin and its tributaries in Kullu, Mandi Kangra and Hamirpur districts besides Chakki rivulet in district Kangra, an official statement said.
However, the lease of legal mining has not been cancelled. The chief minister said directions had been given to the Department of Environment, Science and Technology and Climate Change to convene a high-level consultation meet inviting experts from IITs, NITs, RandD Institutions and universities to identify the factors which led to such a disastrous situation in the state.
'Declare national calamity'
The Congress urged the Union government to declare Himachal floods as a national calamity of rare severity under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act of 2005 and allocate ₹10,000 crore for rehabilitation and rebuilding of the State.
The State has not received the attention it deserves. I appeal not only to the Union government but also to everyone to contribute whatever they can for rebuilding the State,” party’s in-charge for Himachal Pradesh Rajeev Shukla said at a press conference.
The Congress leader further compared the scale of the floods in the state to the tragedy that unfolded after Bhuj earthquake and Uttarakhand floods that affected the Kedarnath temple.