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Shimla, July 11 A tough operation to clear landslides in Himachal Pradesh’s high-altitude Spiti Valley began on Tuesday morning to rescue 300 people, including 75 women, by road from the snow-marooned region.
They have been stranded at the glacial-fed Chandertal for the past three days.
Largely tourists from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, those trapped also include three women foreigners — two from Ireland and one from the US.
The district administration has stationed them in camps and houses of locals.
Acting Director General of Police Satwant Atwal, who has been monitoring the rescue operations across the state, said there are 225 men and 75 women camping in the Chandertal.
They include one child, three senior citizens and the rest between the age group of 18-60.
Thirty-five of them are from Himachal and a large number of shepherds with 1,500 sheep.
She said the district administration is in touch with the stranded people through satellite phone as the mobile network was hampered.
“While the first rescue team left for Chandertal from Losar with machinery at 5 a.m., the second team headed by Additional Deputy Commissioner Rahul Jain left from Kaza,” a government spokesperson told IANS.
He said a team of about 40 volunteers, comprising local youth from Pangmo, Losar and several villages of Spiti, have joined the rescue operation to assist the civil administration.
The Met office in Shimla on Tuesday predicted moderate to heavy rainfall accompanied with thunder at many places in Shimla, Sirmaur and Kinnaur districts.
However, in Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti districts, there are chances of moderate rainfall.
A day earlier, snowfall in the region after torrential rains hampered the clearing of massive landslides that snapped road links, rescuers said.
Besides evacuation from the Chandertal, several motorists, comprising tourists and locals in two state-roadways buses, have been stuck after a flashflood in the Pagal nullah near Sissu village in the Lahaul Valley.
The flashflood has blocked the Manali-Leh highway. “Our teams are in regular contact with most of the stranded tourists in Chandertal and Sissu areas. The local administration has provided them accommodation in nearby places,” Additional Director General of Police Abhishek Trivedi told IANS.
He said the local police have made arrangements for the tourists to talk to their family members as the mobile network connectivity was hampered with torrential rains.
“All the tourists are safe. They will be evacuated if the road links are reopened with the clearing of landslides. Right now, the area is witnessing snowfall. If the weather permits, they might be airlifted,” Trivedi said.
He added that Superintendent of Police Mayank Chaudhary was on the spot at the Chandertal to supervise the relief and rescue operation. The Chandertal lake — a crescent-shaped basin surrounded by the Himalayas — is located at an elevation of 14,100 ft. The lake is accessible only during the summer. In winter, it remains frozen.