46 killed in landslide in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi, PM Modi condoles deaths
At least 46 people were killed and 10 missing after a landslide triggered by a cloudburst swept away several vehicles on a busy highway stretch in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday.
Mandi deputy commissioner Sandeep Kadam said a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and army dug through mounds of mud and stones to recover 46 bodies from the site.
The rescuers also pulled out five people alive from the rubble. They were rushed to the zonal hospital at Mandi with severe injuries.
Apart from the 200-metre stretch of the Mandi-Pathankot highway, the landslide that took place around 1.15am at Kotrupi village washed away two buses of Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC), two cars and a motorcycle. Five houses were also damaged.
Rescue operations were suspended late evening as there were apprehensions of more landslides. The rescue work would resume on Monday.
Himachal transport minister GS Bali said the toll could rise. Kadam said at least 10 people are feared trapped under the landslide debris.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to condole the incident. “Pained by the loss of lives due to landslide-related accidents in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district. My condolences with the families of the deceased,” Modi tweeted.
Most of the victims are believed to be passengers of the two buses that were caught in the landslide. Eight passengers were on board the bus going from Manali to Katra, while the bus on its way to Manali from Chamba was carrying 50 passengers, HRTC sources said.
The buses had halted for a tea break at Kotrupi at night when the tragedy struck, the HRTC said in a statement.
The Katra bound air-conditioned bus was hit by a boulder that came rolling from a hilltop. The bus rolled 200 metres down a gorge. The other ill-fated bus was swept 2km down the hill.
The Mandi-Jogindernagar road had been closed after the incident. Vehicles were diverted via alternative routes, sources said.
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh visited the spot to take stock of the rescue operations. Rescue efforts were initially hampered by the incessant rains. The rescue team also had to move with extreme caution as the debris was sliding.
The state government also announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.
At least 120 army and NDRF personnel are engaged in the operation along with a team of police, home guards and fire brigade.
The deceased have been identified as Suruchi Thakur, Neha, Vinod Kumar (travelling in Manali-Katara Bus) Suresh Kumar, Babu Ram, Pawan Kumar, Khub Ram, Kartar Chand, Subhash Singh, Sagar Singh, Ajay, Mandeep Singh and Chandan Sharma (passengers of Chamba- Manali bus). Rest are yet to be identified.
The injured are Manju, 20, of Karsog; Anita, 23, from Jogindernagar and Shubham, 21, Suchitra, 19, and Jyoti Sharma, 18, all residents of Shimla. They were in the Katra-bound bus.
Meanwhile, the Mandi district administration has activated helpline numbers 01905 226201, 226202, 226203, 226204 to provide information about the victims.