M A I N   N E W S

Reports of blasts trigger panic
Pratibha Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Rampur, August 12
Palpable panic and fear among the people residing in areas along the Sutlej was all too visible as the feared flash floods in the state could be hours away as China reportedly triggered a controlled blast at the natural dam over the Parchu river this afternoon.

The panic became even more palpable following heavy movement of the Army, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Home Guard personnel in the areas along the Sutlej. People waiting with baited breath for the impending deluge to happen, could be seen sitting on the parapets along the road, glued to their transistors for any latest information amid conflicting reports.

Though the endless wait for the impending disaster continued, the mushrooming of temporary camps of the Army and the ITBP at Sainj, Duttnagar and Narkanda added to the fear and panic, which could be seen writ large on their faces. Army personnel from the 18 Engineers, Chandi Mandir and Zirakpur pitched their camps for dismantling the Bailey bridges and undertaking rescue and relief. “We are equipped with boats, life jackets, satellite phones, wireless sets, and other rescue material in case the gushing waters hit the area,” said an Army officer.

About 143 families in Rampur, Nogli, Nirsu, Duttnagar and Luri have been shifted to schools and government colonies situated at higher points. “It is like living under the shadow of death as we are unable to even eat the food we cook everyday as we are faced with an uncertain future,” says Krishna Sharma, who has vacated their Golden Jubilee Guest House at Nogli. At certain places like Tattapani, people, who have undergone the misery in 2000, have even removed the wooden doors, windows and frames so that the damage caused is minimum. The villages under threat wore a completely deserted look as people have been shifted out.

It is not just the psychological trauma that the people are undergoing as they could suffer huge financial losses because finding trucks is getting increasingly difficult and the ones available are demanding exorbitant transportation charges.

During the past one week the state government has evacuated 3,500 people from 56 villages in the districts of Kinnaur, Shimla, Kullu and Bilaspur. “We are maintaining round-the-clock vigil to assess the water level which is being measured every five minutes and we are fully geared to meet any emergency situation,” said Mr Gyaneshwar Singh, Superintendent of Police, Kinnaur.

Senior officials here, while confirming the blast by China at 1.10 p.m today, appeared baffled as there had been no increase in the water level. “In case there had been a blast the water should have by now crossed the border between Tibet and India at Lapchla Pass and entered the first habitation at Leo,” remarked an official.

The people, on the other hand, appeared indignant at the conflicting reports both from the government as well as the media. “It is almost one week since we have been camping in the government colony and still we do not know for sure when the water will come and with what intensity,” said a worried Swarna Sharma, who is virtually reliving the horror of August 1, 2000 devastation.

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