About 6,000 tourists were stranded in the popular resort of Manali as on Monday, even as electricity supply in the area remained disrupted for the second day after Sunday’s snowfall.
Landline phones have been out of order since Saturday evening, while mobile phone service is partially operational in the area.
A majority of the roads leading to Manali town remained closed for traffic. Traffic on the Kiratpur-Manali national highway (NH-21) remained disrupted, even as the Himachal Pradesh government made use of excavators to clear snow-laden roads. The main roads connecting Manali from the left and right banks of the Beas river could not be opened for traffic on Monday.
The road on the right bank had been cleared of snow till Kalauth, about 7km from Manali town, while the one on the left had been cleared till Naggar village, nearly 20km from the tourist resort.
“Hopefully, these roads will be opened for traffic on Tuesday morning,” said Lalit Bushan, superintending engineer, public works department (PWD), Kullu.
Manali recorded 65cm snowfall and sub-zero night temperature on Sunday. The minimum temperature was recorded at -2.2C, while the maximum on Monday was about 2C. “Though we were delighted to witness snowfall, it has become difficult for us without electricity and telecommunication service,” said Madan Lal, a tourist from Faridabad (Haryana).
Madan, who got stuck in a snowstorm on the Rohtang Pass, walked 10-15km from Marhi to reach Manali. Nearly 2,500 tourists were stranded at Rohtang on Saturday when it snowed heavily. All tourists were rescued by the police and the district administration; 28 of them were lodged at the rescue hut at Marhi.
“There are nearly 6,000 tourists stuck in Manali,” deputy superintendent of police, Manali, Puran Chand told Hindustan Times. In the absence of electricity, some hotels relied on power generators, while there were many which had no arrangement for heating rooms. The main 132-KW line supplying electricity to Kullu and Manali was snapped at Bajuaru following heavy snowfall.
“The lines are being restored. It would take another day or so to restore electricity supply,” said Partap Negi, chief managing director of the Himachal Pradesh Electricity Board Limited.
Disruption of traffic has severely hit the supply of daily commodities in the area. “Hoteliers and shopkeepers have stocks of commodities. We have given directions to the police and civic administration to ensure that tourists are not overcharged by hoteliers and eateries,” said additional district magistrate Vinay Thakur.
In the wake of the heavy snowfall, chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Monday chaired a meeting to take stock of the situation. He directed the authorities concerned to restore water and power supply and other essential services within two days.
“The damage to roads should be assessed and steps taken to open all routes, wherever they are blocked due to heavy snowfall and landslides,” he said. It was decided to release Rs 5 crore to the PWD through the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to undertaken necessary measures to clear the roads.