Friday, August 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Manali-Leh road blocked
From Our Correspondent

KULU, Aug 3 The Manali-Leh highway is reported to be blocked beyond Pang, about 70 km short of Leh. At least 300 foreign tourists who were stranded at Pang returned to Manali today. These tourists have been complaining about inadequate arrangements made by the Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir Governments regarding keeping their respective tourist information offices informed about the road conditions.

One French woman, Ms Walter Isolde, said the tourists were stranded at Pang for the past six days and there was no information about the opening of the road even till yesterday. She said a cup of tea was being sold for Rs 20 at Pang. She further confirmed that mineral water bottles were not available at Pang.

Ms Walter said she would now go to Delhi and from there she would fly to Leh. She added that it was unfortunate that she did not get confirmed air ticket from Delhi to Leh. However, she would take a chance after reaching Delhi.

A group of young school going foreign women lamented that their whole trip was ruined as they could not reach Leh despite waiting for the past five days at Pang. These girls Ms Kepleton, Ms Tamsin, Ms Benajamin and Ms Adda Alexia said information regarding the road having been blocked should have been available at Manali, the originating point for Leh.

Ms Alexia said the military personnel at Pang did not allow anyone to go beyond Pang but nobody informed them why they should not proceed further. Later, they came to know that the road was blocked.

Unconfirmed sources also revealed that the cloudburst in Tibet had also caused damage on the Pang-Leh part of the road. Reportedly, some bridges were also damaged due to the flash floods on this route.

A travel agent at Manali on condition of anonymity told this correspondent the private deluxe buses were still being sent to Leh from Manali till August 2 as no travel agent in Manali was aware of the road blockade.

It was only from the foreign tourists who arrived today that one came to know that the condition was so bad. The travel agent criticised the government for its indifferent attitude on the tourism front. This correspondent tried to contact the district administration and the district tourism officer but no one was available due to their visits to either the flood affected areas or the Kalchakra venue.

MANDI (FOC): Addressing a news conference here on Tuesday evening, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Prabodh Saxena, said the intermittent rain continuing since the past nine days had claimed 12 lives, destroyed 451 head of cattle and damaged 452 houses wholly or partly. He said devastation caused by the unprecedented rain could be much more as the reports of damages were still coming in.

He said according to a preliminary assessment the total damage caused by the rain had been estimated at Rs 9.75 crore. The Public Works Department had suffered the maximum loss amounting to Rs 5.66 crore while the loss to the IPH Department had been estimated at Rs 3.5 crore.

He said in Kotlu village of Tatapani area four houses belonging to Gujjars had been washed away. He said the level of the Sutlej which went up alarmingly from 30 to 50 ft first time in living memory left a trail of devastation in its 40-km course in Mandi district from Tatapani to Dehar but human loss was averted because the water level went up in the morning hours and people went to safer places. The loss to private property was enormous. Vast tracts of land on the banks of the Sutlej had been buried under eight to ten feet thick sheet of sand, he said.

Mr Saxena said extensive damage was caused in Tatapani-Suni belt of this district where two bridges along with two houses and two dhabas were washed away. The PWD rest house had been totally damaged. Several buildings, including a tourist complex, were inundated up to the top. The main bridge on Luri connecting Rampur with Mandi had also been damaged, he said.

He said relief and rehabilitation work had been taken up on a war-footing. A sum of Rs 20 lakh had been placed at the disposal of the SDMs for immediate relief to the victims of the flashfloods.

KULU (FOC): Two persons were reported to be killed and several head of cattle and property worth Rs 20 lakh were washed away in a flashflood in the Panihari nullah in the district on Tuesday night due to a cloudburst near Panihari village, about 17 km from Banjar.

The dead were identified as Kheba Ram (50) and Dalu Devi (25). Their bodies have not been traced so far.

One fair price shop, three other shops and 16 cottage flour mills (locally called gharat) were washed away. The government sources also confirmed that hundreds of fruit bearing apple trees were also washed away in the flashflood.

The district administration has distributed immediate relief to the flood victims. A sum of Rs 10,000 each was given to next of kin of the deceased. The DSP, Banjar, the tehsildar and other revenue officials have reached the spot. The losses are being assessed.

However, government sources estimated the loss to be about Rs 20 lakh. Mr Maheshwar Singh, M.P., and Mr Karan Singh, Minister of State for Primary Education, have expressed grief over the loss of life and property.

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