With no relief from inclement weather entailed with disaster in various parts of the state as many as 175 total tourists were stranded in Lahaul and Spiti district. The 175 tourists include 16 children and 60 ladies who are stuck in Pattan (Udaipur) valley.
Deputy Commissioner Lahaul Spiti told Outlook that he has asked for urgent helicopter support from the state government to airlift the tourists, who have no chance to be evacuated through alternate roads, including Pangi valley of Chamba district.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has also asked Secretary GAD Divesh Kumar to make government helicopter available for rescue operation from Friday.
But, this will also depend on weather conditions as state continue to receive rains and the dense fog has reduced the visibility.
“Most of these people are lodged in small guest houses or private houses as local Mahila Mandals and panchayats have come to their rescue after smashing all three bridges, which were vital to their return from the Pattan valley,” said Deputy Commissioner, Lahaul-Spiti Neeraj Kumar.
Most of these tourists were caught unaware as Lahaul-Spiti never witnesses rains, flash floods, and other weather emergencies.
On Wednesday, the cloud burst which triggered flash floods, resulting in 11 deaths, led to the washing away of all the bridges.
“We tried to explore ways to evacuate them through Pangi but the area is also cut off due to damage suffered by a bridge maintained by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). I have sent SOS to the government for arranging a helicopter, which is the only option” he said.
Meanwhile, the administration has provided the tourists with all necessities including food and lodging but because of the children, the evacuation is required to be done immediately.
The area was still facing the rains and habitation measures underway had also happened.
After the commissioning of the Rohtang Tunnel in October 2020, the tourist’s influx to Lahaul-Spiti has increased manifolds. Despite advisories issued by the government the tourists continue to take the risks of travelling.
Yesterday, the BRO had announced that no vehicle will be permitted to go Keylong-Leh Highway. There were also restrictions on the tourists travelling to Lahaul Spiti.
It was in 2018 when a massive rescue operation was taken up for airlifting nearly 300 tourists stranded in Spiti and Lahaul valleys following heavy snowfall, rare to happen in September. The Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service and operation continued for three days.