Shimla, Sep 27 (IANS) Sixty-three people, including three German and 10 women Indian tourists with three children, were airlifted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) from Himachal Pradesh’s snow-ravaged Lahaul valley on Thursday.
Besides, over 300 people were rescued by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) by road also, officials said. The total number of people rescued in the past three days rose to over 1,300, including 18 foreigners.
They were stranded at various locations in the Himalayas for the past five days with heavy snowfall in the region triggering massive landslides that blocked many roads in Lahaul-Spiti district.
With the weather clearing up, search and rescue operation began early for the third day.
“About 400-500 people are still awaiting evacuation. All stranded tourists have been provided food stuff and medical kits and would be evacuated in a day or two, mostly by road as snow clearing operation in Baralacha Pass area is in full swing,” a government official told IANS.
A large number of people are reported to be stuck in Suraj Tal lake and Zingzing Bar areas along Keylong-Leh road.
Over 300 labourers of the BRO, a Ministry of Defence wing, involved in construction of roads in forward areas have also been stranded since September 22.
An IAF helicopter spotted 10 women tourists along with three children in Chhota Dara area towards the Kunzum Pass. All of them were rescued by the IAF rescuers led by Squadron Leader Vipul Goyal.
Their male companions were provided with relief material and they would be evacuated later, officials said.
Two Chetak helicopters were additionally deployed on Thursday along with three the IAF choppers to speed up the rescue in the Lahaul valley in the Himalayas. The rescue operation will continue on Friday, too, the official said.
A day earlier, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who called him on the phone, that the state has suffered losses totalling approximately Rs 1,250 crore due to the heavy rains.
Modi has assured the state of all possible central assistance.
Early snowfall in the higher reaches, cloudburst and heavy rains devastated large parts of the state from September 22 to 24.
Heavy snowfall on the Rohtang Pass (13,050 ft) has cut off the Lahaul and Spiti valleys affecting a large number of tourists and hampering water and electricity supply. They have been stranded at a number of isolated locations.
The BRO has been clearing the snow from various roads on a war footing. Some stretches had over eight feet of snow.