Himachal landslide: Death toll climbs to 15 as one more body recovered



SHIMLA: The death toll in the landslide in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district has climbed to 15 with the recovery of one more body on Friday, a senior disaster management official said.

Rescue operations resumed this morning to trace the 15 others still missing in the landslide that occurred near Chaura village in the district on Wednesday.

While 10 bodies were recovered on Wednesday, four were found on Thursday from the landslide site.

Besides 13 people were rescued on Wednesday itself.

State Disaster Management Director, Sudesh Kumar Mokhta, said search and rescue operations resumed at around 5.30 am.

The authorities had suspended the search operation on Thursday night.

A Bolero and its passengers feared buried under the rubble could not be traced, Mokhta said, adding that it might be possible that the vehicle rolled down with the debris.

The rescue work being carried out jointly by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), ITBP, police and home guards, resumed at 6 am on Thursday, state Disaster Management Director Sudesh Kumar Mokhta said.

The state authorities had suspended the rescue operation around 10 pm on Wednesday.

A Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus, which along with other vehicles, was buried under the debris, has been found badly damaged.

A Bolero car feared buried under the rubble could not be traced, Mokhta said, adding that it might be possible that it rolled down with the debris.

The HRTC bus was on its way from Reckong Peo to Haridwar via Shimla when it was hit by boulders after the landslide around Wednesday noon.

CM Thakur said the HRTC bus driver had stopped there, seeing falling stones.

Several vehicles had stopped behind it.

As boulders started falling at the site where the vehicles were stationed, the driver, conductor and two other passengers who alighted from the bus saved themselves by taking shelter under a rock.

They were later rescued.

They could not see what happened to other vehicles as it became very dark around the area, the CM said.

The bus was crushed under the rubble and its pieces were found scattered here and there, he added.

The rescue work had to be halted for some time due to shooting stones, the CM said, adding that it was very difficult to complete it manually.

The CM said five of the 13 rescued were at the Bhawanagar CHC when he visited there to enquire about their health.

One injured has been referred to Hamirpur and another to the IGMC in Shimla, he added.

Shooting stones are still hampering the rescue operation, he added.

The CM said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his message extended every possible help and they are trying to complete the rescue operation as soon as possible.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Union minister Anurag Thakur and BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda have also expressed grief over the deaths, he added.

Meanwhile, in a video clip on social media, a rescuer working at the site near the mangled remains of the bus is heard saying that the vehicle was found by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) 17th Battalion.

Another rescuer says gloves should be brought for continuing the rescue operation.

Kinnaur Deputy Commissioner Abid Hussain Sadiq said four more bodies were recovered from the spot after the rescue operation resumed on Thursday.

Fourteen bodies have been recovered so far, he told PTI.

In a touching Facebook post in Hindi, Lokendra Singh Vedic, a resident of Shimla, said his father’s body has been found but “rescuers are yet to find his head”.

CM Thakur met the kin of the dead and family members of those missing, assuring all possible help from the government.

The CM said the state government will provide Rs 4 lakh each to the next of kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured.

Rs 1 lakh will be given to the kin of the dead bus passengers by the Transport Department, he said, adding that free treatment will be provided to the injured.

The CM said the state government will also conduct a geological survey of the area.

Earlier, a two-minute silence was observed in the state Assembly to pay homage to those who died in the landslide.

Urban Development Minister Suresh Bhardwaj told the Assembly that CM Thakur, along with Industries and Transport Minister Bikram Singh, has gone to the spot to take stock of the rescue work.

Bhardwaj said the landslide occurred at a place where people usually stop for sightseeing and take photographs.

The state government had requisitioned four helicopters for rescue work on Wednesday but they could not reach the site due to bad weather, he added.

Senior Congress leader Asha Kumari said Leader of the Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri, Rampur MLA Nand Lal and Shimla Rural MLA Vikramaditya Singh have also gone to the spot.

Expressing grief, CPM MLA Rakesh Singha said the factors that cause such landslides should also be examined.

The dead have been identified as Rohit Kumar (25), a resident of Kaiya village at Rampur in Shimla; Vijay Kumar (32) of Jhol village in Sujanpur of Hamirpur ; two-year-old Vanshuka of Sapni in Sangla of Kinnaur; Meera Devi, Nitisha, Prem Kumari , Gyan Dassi, Devi Chand (53), Kumari Radhika (22), Bhupender (29), all from Kinnaur; Kamlesh Kumar (34) of Rechuta village in Solan and Lakshman Thapa (19), who hails from Nepal and currently living in Theog, Shimla.

One dead person is yet to be identified, Disaster Management Director Mokhta added.

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