The Army and police rescued more than 400 people trapped at the Khardung La pass — the world’s highest motorable road — due to landslides triggered by heavy rains in Ladakh late on Friday.
Tourists, labourers and locals were stranded on a 10-km stretch that was cut off when incessant rain triggered heavy landslides on the Leh-Nubra road, around 435km from here, trapping them in sub-zero temperatures.
“Heavy rains had triggered landslides between south and north Pullu, trapping around 150 vehicles in between,” said JS Brar, army spokesperson in Srinagar.
After news of the landslides was received, Leh superintendent of police Vivek Gupta led a joint team of rescue workers from the police, Central Reserve Police Force and Army to the spot — 17,815 feet above sea level — along with a medical team at 7pm.
“We went to the Khardung La top and were able to clear the way for 98 small vehicles and 28 heavy vehicles, including trucks,” said Gupta. A joint control room was also established to coordinate the rescue.
“By 8pm, the road was made motorable for small vehicles and the operation was completed by 11:30pm,” Brar said.
The rescued civilians have reached their respective destinations. However, 23 labourers travelling in two buses are still stuck on the pass.
“We managed to ferry some of them in our gypsies but as snowfall continued it became dangerous. The labourers have been accommodated in an army camp and are safe,” Gupta said.
Around 120 people were administered oxygen at the medical aid post as oxygen levels were low in the area, officials said. Many of the stranded passengers had complained of mountain sickness on Friday.
Ladakh (comprising Leh and Kargil) is connected to the mainland through two roads — the Srinagar-Leh highway and the Leh-Manali road.