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Icy winds kill 8 in Himachal Pradesh
Manali, Nov 20 (IANS):
Published on 20 Nov. 2009 10:57 PM IST
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At least eight people were killed Friday as high velocity icy winds lashed Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district, an official said. Over 75 people were caught in strong icy winds at around 1.30 p.m. after crossing the Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet) on foot, Deputy Commissioner (Kullu) B.M. Nanta told IANS. “Eight people died on the spot and others managed to escape. They were coming from the Lahaul valley (in Lahaul and Spiti district),” he said. Most of the victims were migratory labourers from Bihar and Jharkhand. “They were advised against crossing the Rohtang Pass, but they went against the warning,” the official said. A total of 67 labourers have been now taken to Marhi, some 35 km from Manali, and the administration is providing them treatment and warm clothes, officials said. The Rohtang Pass has been closed to traffic since Nov 9 due to heavy snowfall. Choppers deployed Himachal Pradesh Friday deployed a private chopper to rescue people who have been marooned in the cold desert for the past 11 days in tribal Lahaul and Spiti district due to heavy snowfall, an official said. More than 300 people, including government officials, have been stranded across the district since Nov 9 when the region saw heavy snowfall and the road network in the district closed to traffic. ‘This (Friday) morning a 26-seater private helicopter was deployed to rescue the stranded people in the Lahaul valley. Priority will be given to the elderly, women and the sick,’ General Administration Department Secretary Ajay Bhandari told IANS. He said a six-seater chopper of the government was also deployed for the first time Thursday and it managed to airlift around 30 people. ‘The 26-seater chopper hired from Mesco was deployed to speed up the rescue operation,’ he said. The only road link to the Lahaul valley through the majestic Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), closed since Nov 9, has not been restored so far. S.K. Doon of the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), a government agency that maintains the Manali-Leh highway that passes through Rohtang Pass, said the snow clearing work has been going on for the past 11 days. ‘Work is on to clear the snow from the Rohtang Pass so that road connectivity to the Lahaul valley could be restored and the stranded people could be evacuated,’ he said. ‘It will take one or two days more to reopen the pass for the traffic,’ he added. The weather at the Rohtang Pass, located 52 km from here, is harsh. A sudden drop in temperatures even in summer triggers wintry conditions. Meanwhile, the cold wave has tightened its grip across the state. According to the Shimla-based meteorological office, the high-altitude areas of Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur, Chamba and Kullu districts have been experiencing extreme cold. ‘Keylong was the coldest human habitation in the state Friday, recording a minimum of minus 9.2 degrees Celsius, while Kalpa (in Kinnaur district) recorded a low of minus 4.5 degrees,’ meteorological director said.

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