Uttarakhand highway blocked, school damaged in landslides

  • Prithviraj Singh, Hindustan Times, Dehradun
  • Updated: May 30, 2016 12:39 IST
A flooded river in Uttarakhand after the floods two years ago. (Santosh Bhatt/ HT photo)

Landslides triggered by torrential rains on Saturday blocked a crucial highway and damaged part of a school in Uttarakhand’s Tehri district, officials said, reviving memories of the 2013 cloudburst that killed 5,000 people in the Himalayan state.

Residents near Virgaon in Ghansali block, around 180 km from capital Dehradun, described the rains as a cloudburst - extremely heavy rains lasting few minutes and often causing devastation - but weather officials said there was no concrete proof of such a weather phenomenon.

There was no report of any loss of life, police said.

A cloudburst on June 16, 2013 had devastated Kedar Valley -- home to the famous Kedarnath Temple - killing more than 5,000 people and displacing thousands of others besides causing extensive damage.

Hundreds of bodies were never found, either washed away by the raging waters or buried under millions of tonnes of earth displaced in landslides, exposing the vulnerability of the state to extreme weather conditions.

“We cannot call it a cloud burst as it needs heavy shower of 10 cm in an hour,” said Bikram Singh, director of the MeT centre at Dehradun.

He said the amount of rainfall could not be measured as there is no instrument at Ghansali but added that even “a small (amount of) rain can cause flood in hill areas for which all precautions must be taken”. Heavy rains are predicted in the state till May 30.

Police said the landslides have blocked a 20-metre span of the Gangotri-Kedarnath national highway, affecting traffic movement of the road. It could take two to three days to clear the road, a police official said over phone from the site.

Two-three rooms of a school building were washed away, police said. However, there were no students at the time of the incident at around 2 pm.

A couple of residential buildings were also said to be damaged by the heavy current of water flowing down the hillside. Virgaon resident Vedpal Rawat described the rains as “massive”.

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