Dehradun – More than 100 tourists, including many from abroad, were stranded in different areas of Uttarakhand where torrential rain and landslides have claimed 66 lives over the past three days, an official said Tuesday.
A group of 50 tourists, including 28 from Brazil, were stuck on the main Uttarkashi-Yamunotri highway while they were returning after their sojourn to four popular Hindu pilgrimage destinations – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, an official of the state disaster management department said.
Two Indian Army officers of a mountaineering team were killed when a snow avalanche hit their camp in Chamoli district.
Even as scanty rain was reported in the state since Monday, landslides and deep cracks in the earth virtually paralysed normal life in large parts of the Himalayan state. Road traffic was disrupted in several parts of Almora, Pithoragarh, Bageshwar, Uttarkashi, Udham Singh Nagar and Haridwar districts.
Alarmed by reports of the calamity, Congress president Sonia Gandhi alongwith Defence Minister A.K. Antony undertook a tour of some of the affected areas earlier in the day.
Movement on several other major highways and roads was disrupted on account of deep cracks or landslides, that had washed away chunks of land.
Supply of essential commodities including diesel, petrol, cooking gas and even vegetables and fruits has been badly affected on account of damaged roads. ‘Even though repairs are being undertaken on a war footing, restoration of normal traffic is bound to take some time, thereby threatening a serious crisis of essential commodities in many areas,’ the spokesman said.
Major damage was reported to crops in the agriculturally rich Udham Singh Nagar district.
Despite low rainfall, the water level at the giant Tehri Dam continued to rise, albeit slowly and was at 830.36 metres Tuesday. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank flew down to the dam site and undertook an aerial survey of villages in the vicinity of the gigantic Tehri reservoir.
‘We have taken all safety measures and people are being evacuated to relief camps set up by the administration in all affected districts of the state,’ he told mediapersons at Tehri Tuesday.
The Indian Army officers killed in an avalanche are Lt. Col. Poornachandra of the 9 Para Field Regiment and Major Manish Gusain of the 11 Kumaon Regiment. They were part of a 44-member team on an expedition to the 7,756 metre high Mt. Kamet, army spokesperson Col. Om Singh said in New Delhi.
Even as the weather office has predicted more rain in the coming days, locals are praying to the gods to save the Uttarakhand region from more rains. ‘Only a continued dry spell for the next few days could save us from the fury of the waters,’ quipped senior citizen G.B. Pant from Almora.