Over a month ago, as a result of incessant rains followed by landslides, cloudbursts, and flash floods, our state was brought to its knees by the wrath of nature. The fear gripped the state, especially those who were stranded in remote and inaccessible areas in various pockets of the state. Hundreds of lives were at stake and fear was about to overshadow hope. The unprecedented situation required an unprecedented response. Unflinchingly, Chief Minister Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu was swift to act and deploy all of its men and machinery for rescue operations. He himself monitored the situation day and night. The next few days witnessed heroic tales amid the disaster. The heroes of the rescue operations made history by accomplishing the daunting task of rescuing around 75,000 tourists in less than a week.
Nothing in life is free as everything has a cost attached to it. In these rescue operations, the cost for the rescuers was to put their own life at risk for the safe evacuation of each and every individual. In the end, all were brought back safely to their home. Here are a few stories of challenging rescue operations conducted by the brave hearts last month in Himachal thus proving why we are a proud nation with unique culture ready to sacrifice our lives for the greater cause of humanity.
Mission Chandra Tal: Over 300 stuck at 14,000 feet amid 4 feet of snow for five days
In what would be remembered as the most difficult and daring rescue operations in the History of Himachal, over 300 people, including over 260 tourists from outside the state, were rescued. They got stuck at the height of over 14,000 feet in Chandra Taal – around 86 kilometres away from Kaza – in over 4 feet of snow on July 9. The challenging weather conditions didn’t allow for air rescue. Knowing that the rescue could take days, the government first made sure that the stranded people had adequate camps, medical supplies and other essential equipments. Seven people, including a minor, in need of urgent evacuation were rescued from Chandra Taal by a chopper. Next, the state government deployed five Persons Police Team, 10 Persons ITBP Team, 10 Persons Aapda Mitra Volunteer Team and officials of local administration immediately to put the rescue plan in action. In the next few days roads were cleared daring the extreme weather. Revenue Minister Jagat Singh Negi and Chief Parliamentary Secretary Sanjay Awasthi, led the government’s efforts in the last leg of the operation as they reached Chandra Taal to ensure that every single person was rescued before they left at the end of the successful operation. During the operation, the rescue team was informed that 50 persons were stranded at Batal and initiated their evacuation and brought them safely to Kaza. Acting on the information that another six persons were stranded in Batal, a rescue team was deployed and they were safely brought to Losar. The rescue lasted for five days and finally on July 13 the government breathed a sigh of relief as all the stranded were brought back safely.
Airlifted and safely harboured
Parts of the road connecting Sangla and Karcham in Kinnaur were so badly damaged that one could have easily said that roads never existed there. Around 125 tourists got stuck at Sangla on July 9. There was no easy way out because the fearsome rain spell had just begun. The government stepped in for the rescue along with the Indian Air Force (IAF). Many attempts were made for rescue but the weather was not permitting. Meanwhile, the authorities made arrangements to gather people together at a safe place in Sangla and ensured they had an adequate quota of essential supplies. It was on 4th day, July 12, the weather permitted and IAF airlifted the stranded to drop them at a safe harbour.
In another incident, five people got stuck on the bank of the Giri River in Nahan, Sirmaur, on July 10. It was a long wait of around 24 hours before they were airlifted by an Army Helicopter on July 11. Meanwhile, the district administration remained in contact with them throughout the rescue and provided them with medical, food and other relief items with the help of drones.
In total, around 150 people were rescued with the use of helicopters in the state from July 9 to July 12.
Swift rescue and foreign praise
Himachal Pradesh is an all-weather favourable destination for all types of tourism. Over a crore footfall of tourists is registered in the state every year. The natural beauty and hospitality of its residents attract tourists, not just from the country but from all over the world. Unfortunately, when the disaster struck the state a large number of foreign nationals were present all across the state. Any harm to them could have attracted voices of concern from their respective counsels, highlighting the matter internationally. This could have had a big impact on our country’s image apart from adverse effects on the flow of tourism in the state. However, the government anticipated the challenges and all the tourists were rescued in such a swift manner that it garnered praise from all over the world. The World Bank, in particular, praised the exemplary efforts of Chief Minister Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu in effectively managing the calamitous events. The World Bank pointed out the personal monitoring of the rescue operations by Sh. Sukhu and lauded his extraordinary leadership ability.
Govt. takes utmost care of ‘Children of Kerala State
Amid the disaster, the government was informed that 27 medical students from Kerala were stuck in Koksar, Lahaul & Spiti. Apart from dealing with fierce weather situation, the students were also facing shortage of money. The government dealt with the matter on priority and all were safely brought to Manali. Arrangements were made for their food and accommodation. As the weather permitted and the roads were cleared, the students were sent to Mandi District by the administration and from there to Delhi in a Volvo bus. The government took care of the children with the utmost care, bore their food and travel cost and ensured they reached home safely.
Similar rescues were carried out throughout the state over a period of one week that included rescuing devotees from the Mani Mahesh Yatra route in the Chamba district and from the Shrikhand Mahadev route from Kullu district, trekkers from Pin Parvati and other similar routes in Kullu district, from Kara Pass in Kinnaur district and from various other trekking routes. Thousands were rescued from Aloo Ground, Churudu, Hanumanibag, Slum Sarvari Khadd, Chandigar Bihal, Lankabekar, Pagal Nallah, Sisu, Mehruwala Khala near Bhangani, Pandoh, Nagwain and other parts of various district of the state.
Apart from the above mentioned stories, there are numerous others in which the rescuers put their life at risk to save the mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends and families of others. These brave faces belonged to the IAF, Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Border Road Organisation, National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force, Police, Home Guards, Fire Brigade, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, local people, State and District administration and representatives of the government. This year as we celebrate the 77th Independence Day, let’s also salute these rescuers for their selfless acts of bravery.