NEW DELHI: More than 50 people perished as a result of landslides and flash floods, a dire consequence of intense monsoon rains, that ravaged India’s Himalayan region over the past weekend.
The calamity has raised concerns among officials from the state disaster management authority, who fear the death toll could escalate further, given that over 20 individuals remain ensnared or unaccounted for.
The region experienced an extraordinary deluge, coupled with the melting of glaciers, resulting in lethal flash floods that have plagued not only India’s mountains but also extended to neighboring Pakistan and Nepal in recent times. Government authorities increasingly attribute these disasters to the effects of climate change.
Heart-wrenching scenes unfolded on television screens from Himachal Pradesh, revealing homes obliterated by landslides. Buses and cars teetered precariously on the brink of precipices after roads buckled under the onslaught of the floods. Emergency responders toiled tirelessly at rescue sites, battling debris and chaos as they struggled to save lives.
Expressing his grief, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, took to the microblogging platform X (formerly known as Twitter), lamenting, “Once again, tragedy has struck Himachal Pradesh, with incessant rainfall over the last 48 hours.” He further acknowledged the potential for the death toll to escalate, stating, “This figure may rise as 20 individuals remain trapped.”
Meanwhile, officials from the state disaster management authority disclosed that by Monday evening, they had retrieved 41 bodies. However, Praveen Bhardwaj, a state disaster management official, shared the grim reality, “Another 13 individuals are unaccounted for, but with the passage of time, optimism wanes regarding their chances of survival.”
In one of the most grievous incidents, a temple in the state capital, Shimla, succumbed to the force of nature, with rescuers recovering at least nine bodies, as confirmed by the chief minister. Tragedy also struck Solan district, where dwellings crumbled, claiming the lives of seven people. In Mandi district, a mother and her child lost their lives when their residence collapsed, Bhardwaj lamented.
Television broadcasts captured the harrowing sight of swollen rivers breaching their banks in both Himachal and Uttarakhand states. The latter also experienced casualties, with two fatalities and four individuals reported missing in rain-related incidents, according to Uttarakhand Disaster Management control room as reported by Reuters.
The India Meteorological Department issued a dire “red alert” for both states on Monday, anticipating a decrease in rainfall intensity from the following day. The weather office documented that regions of Himachal and Uttarakhand were inundated with a staggering 273 mm (10.75 inches) and 419 mm (16.54 inches) of rainfall within a 24-hour period, ending at 8:30 am IST (3 am GMT) on Monday.
Taking decisive action, state officials ordered the closure of schools and educational institutions in Himachal Pradesh. Vulnerable populations in susceptible areas were relocated to relief shelters to ensure their safety. In a corresponding measure, Uttarakhand state authorities announced the suspension of the Char Dham pilgrimage route until Tuesday due to the landslides and associated hazards.