DEHRADUN: More than 15,000 tourists and pilgrims in 900-odd buses were stranded for over 16 hours following a landslide caused by heavy rainfall in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhandalong the 290km Rishikesh-Gangotri National Highway, before being rescued by Border Road Organisation personnel on Thursday.
A sizeable part of the highway along the Maneri Sainji village was washed away after more than 15 hours of torrential downpour into the Bhagirathi river. A senior Uttarakhand disaster management official said Maneri Sainji is highly landslide-prone and dangerous during rainfalls. Most stranded people said they were stuck without food and water for more than 16 hours along the desolate stretch.
“We were trapped since 10pm on Wednesday, with no body turning up to help us. We feared the worst,” said 67-year-old Anil Arora from Delhi. There were no highway dhabas either and the situation turned nightmarish for those in need of medical attention, said another tourist. Maneri Sainji is 20 km from Uttarkashi town.
The heavy rush of tourists and pilgrims is owing to the ongoing Chardham Yatra to the shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. While most stranded passengers were on way to Gangotri from Rishikesh and Delhi, there were also people stuck returning from Yamunotri.
A village official said the communication network, too, broke down because of which they could not contact state disaster management department for help. Cell phones were out of coverage.
Finally, six BRO bulldozers were deployed to clear the road and 20 teams of personnel worked to ensure the trapped people were driven to safety.
“It will continue to rain for the next 48 hours,” said Met office director Anand Sharma. It could lead to more landslides in the region.
A senior BRO officer said their teams saved trapped people including old and infirm and shifted them to safer places until the road was cleared. Landslides are common in fragile parts of the Uttarakhand Himalayas. In 2012, the government had suspended the Chardham Yatra following heavy landslides and torrential rains that lasted nearly one week.
Source: Time of India