Himachal rains: Death toll climbs to 71; ‘mountain-like challenge’ before state, says CM Sukhu

Shimla: Total of 214 people dead in rain-related incidents in state since onset of monsoon on June 24 while 38 still missing

BY | Thursday, 17 August, 2023

The death toll in rain-battered Himachal Pradesh rose to 71 on Wednesday with more bodies being recovered, as Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu termed rebuilding the damaged infrastructure a “mountain-like challenge”.

“At least 71 people have died in the past three days and 13 are still missing. A total of 57 bodies have been recovered since Sunday night,” Principal Secretary (Revenue) Onkar Chand Sharma said.

Earlier, Chief Minister Sukhu said that about 60 people have died since Sunday night.

Heavy rains have lashed the hill state since Sunday, triggering landslides in several districts including Shimla where three areas — Summer Hill, Fagli and Krishna Nagar — are badly hit by landslips.

In an interview with PTI, Sukhu said his state will take a year to rebuild the infrastructure wrecked by the heavy rains this monsoon and claimed that the estimated loss in the two devastating spells of heavy rains – this week and in July – is about Rs 10,000 crore.

The chief minister said it takes time to rebuild roads and water projects. But the government is speeding up the process. “We have to get the infrastructure fully restored within a year. I am working with this in mind.”

“It’s a big challenge, a mountain-like challenge,” he said.

According to the state emergency operation centre, in total 214 people have died in the rain-related incidents in the state since the onset of monsoon on June 24 while 38 are still missing.

“Rescue operations are going on in Summer Hill and Krishna Nagar areas…one body was recovered from Summer Hill site,” Shimla Deputy Commissioner Aditya Negi told PTI.

He said so far 13 bodies have been recovered from Summer Hill, five from Fagli and two from Krishna Nagar. Some bodies are still feared buried in the debris of the Shiva temple at Summer Hill that collapsed on Monday.

About 15 houses in Krishna Nagar have been vacated and the families shifted to safer places. Several others have vacated their homes themselves fearing slides due to incessant rains.

The Education department had ordered closure of all schools and colleges in the state on Wednesday due to inclement weather and the Himachal Pradesh University has suspended teaching activities till August 19.

The officials said all educational institutions will remain closed in the Shimla Urban assembly segment on Thursday as several roads are blocked.

About 1,200 roads are blocked in the state and the losses suffered by the state since the onset of monsoon on June 24 have crossed Rs 7,480 crore, officials said, adding as many as 10,714 houses have been completely or partially damaged so far.

Deputy Chief Minister Mukesh Agnihotri has urged the Centre to declare national calamity in Himachal Pradesh and release Rs 2,000 crore for restoration works.

Meanwhile, 1,731 people have been rescued from flood-affected areas of Indora and Fatehpur sub-divisions of Kangra district in the last 24 hours, said Deputy Commissioner Nipun Jindal on Wednesday.

Specifically, 1,344 people were rescued from Indora and 387 from Fatehpur.

The operation to evacuate people from flood-affected areas is going on with the assistance of Air Force helicopters, Army personnel, and NDRF, Jindal said.

Chief Minister Sukhu conducted an aerial survey of Indora and Fatehpur and took stock of evacuation operations in the areas flooded downstream of Pong reservoir.

Himachal Pradesh has already received 742 mm of rainfall in 54 days of monsoon this year against a season’s average of 730 mm it records between June 1 and September 30, a weather official here said.

The rainfall recorded in the state this July broke all records for the month in the last 50 years, Shimla Meteorological Centre Director Surinder Paul told PTI.

The Army, Indian Air Force, National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force are engaged in the evacuation of people from the flood-affected areas, CM Sukhu said, adding police and Home Guard personnel have also been roped in for the process.

He said that this was the most devastating natural calamity the state has gone through in the last 50 years.

Meanwhile, Himachal Governor Shiv Pratap Shukla visited the landslide-hit Krishna Nagar locality in Shimla and interacted with the residents there, a statement issued here said.

Around 250 to 300 families have been affected in Krishna Nagar, it added.

Army officials said over 5,000 people have been rescued with deployment of eight columns in Himachal Pradesh.

The Indian Air Force has lent its support by deploying a Chinook helicopter, which executed a single sortie to airlift 18 army personnel and a three-ton mini dozer to the landslide-affected regions near Shimla on Tuesday.

In July, heavy rains in the state, including in Mandi, Kullu and Shimla, claimed several lives and destroyed property worth crores of rupees.

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