Shimla, Sep 26: Over 650 people, including five foreigners and IIT Roorkee students, have been evacuated in the past two days and over 1,000 are still stranded in snow-hit Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, officials said on Wednesday.
Three stranded persons, including a pregnant woman from Nepal, have lost their lives in the past two days.
On Wednesday, as the weather cleared, the government and the Indian Air Force (IAF) engaged in evacuation work to airlift tourists stranded for the past four days.
“IAF choppers and the state government are on the job to airlift the stranded. Most have been brought to Manali and Kullu towns,” Kullu Deputy Commissioner Yunus Khan, who is supervising the relief and rescue operation, told IANS over telephone.
The IAF has deployed three helicopters while the state is using the Chief Minister’s official chopper.
Nine persons, hailing from West Bengal, were airlifted from Stingri and five from the snow-marooned Baralacha Pass (16,020 ft). Five tourists from Norway and Denmark were also rescued.
Meanwhile, two Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and one Medium Lift Helicopters (MLH) deployed in Bhuntar. The ALH rescued 7 people from Patsio yesterday, 5 from Bara-Lacha Pass and 14 people from Stingri on Wednesday. It dropped 1000 food packets for those stranded in Rohtang.
The BRO has also rescued 35 IIT Roorkee students who went missing in Lahaul Spiti while returning after trekking from Hampta trekking pass in Kullu. They are at Mountaineering Institute in Manali.
Most people who got struck at the Baralacha Pass were reportedly travelling to Manali from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir.
Early snowfall in the higher reaches, cloud burst and heavy rains devastated large parts of the state from September 22 to 24. Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti were the worst affected.
According to the Broader Roads Organisation (BRO), the heavy snowfall on the Rohtang Pass (13,050 ft) has cut off the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys affecting a large number of tourists.
The BRO, a wing of the Defence Ministry, has been clearing the snow from various roads on a war footing. Some stretches had more than eight feet of snow.
By Tuesday evening, 457 persons have been rescued from the Lahual Valley to Manali through the Rohtang tunnel.