SHIMLA, India, 11 August 2021
Ten people were killed, 13 rescued and several others feared buried under debris after a landslide trapped a bus and other vehicles in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district on Wednesday, officials said.
A video clip captured the horror of the moment.
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.
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.
A Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus, which was on its way from Reckong Peo to Haridwar via Shimla, was still buried under the debris, Mokhta said.
Early reports said there could be up to 40 people in the government bus but it was later found that the number was far less.
Earlier, the Bhawanagar station house officer (SHO) said around 25 to 30 were trapped under the debris.
When the initial reports came, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur told the state Assembly that 50-60 people were feared trapped under the debris but the exact number was not known.
He said Union Home Minister Amit Shah has talked to him and the topmost priority as of now is to rescue those trapped and provide them the best possible treatment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke to Thakur over the incident.
“PM @narendramodi spoke to Himachal Pradesh CM @jairamthakurbjp regarding the situation in the wake of the landslide in Kinnaur. PM assured all possible support in the ongoing rescue operations,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said.
Union Home Minister Shah also spoke to Thakur to take stock of the situation and directed the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to provide all assistance to the state government in rescue and relief operations.
Thakur told the Assembly that a helicopter is also being arranged for the rescue operation.
The chief minister said the landslide occurred when there was no rainfall.
Earlier, officials said two cars were damaged and rescue teams are trying to pull them out from the debris with the help of a crane.
A truck rolled down towards a riverside due to shooting stones and the driver’s body has been recovered, they added.
Among the dead are a two-year-old girl and five women, a state official spokesperson said.
Two of the dead were identified as Rohit Kumar (25), a resident of Kaiya village at Rampur in Shimla; and Vijay Kumar (32) of Jhol village in Sujanpur of Hamirpur district, state Disaster Management Director Sudesh Kumar Mokhta Mokhta said.
The eight dead found in Tata Sumo have been identified as two-year-old girl Vanshuka of Sapni in Sangla tehsil of Kinnaur; Meera Devi, Nitisha, Prem kumari (42), Gyan Dassi, Devi Chand (53), all from Kinnaur district; and Kammlesh Kumar (34) of Rechuta village in Solan.
One dead person is yet to be identified, Mokhta added.
The injured were identified as bus driver Mahinder Pal, a resident of Bilaspur; conductor Gulab Singh of Mandi; Prashant, Varun Menon, Rajender of Hamirpur, Daulat of Kinnaur, Shorang Project driver Charan Jeet Singh of Naleenakal in Punjab”s Fatehgarh Sahib, Saveen Sharma of Nepal, Japti Devi of Rampur in Shimla, Chander Gyan of Pooh in Kinnaur, Arun of Rampur, Anil Kumar and Kaizang Negi of Skibba at Moorang in Kinnaur.
They have been shifted to a Bhawanagar community health centre (CHC) for treatment, officials added.
The state Disaster Management Authority has requisitioned the NDRF from Nurpur for the search and rescue operation, Mokhta 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, he said.
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, he added.
Officials said the bodies have been sent for autopsy.
Earlier on 25 July, nine people were killed and three others injured in multiple landslides near Batseri in Kinnaur district.
Similarly on 27 July, at least eight people died, two were injured and two went missing in flash floods triggered by a cloudburst in Lahaul-Spiti district.
Jal Shakti Minister Mahender Singh Thakur had informed the state Assembly on 4 August that a total of 218 people died and 12 went missing in Himachal Pradesh this monsoon season.