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Stranded at Rohtang for 4 days
Kuldeep Chauhan
Tribune News Service

Mandi, October 14
For six members of a family from Brahmpur, Kolkata, it was a traumatic experience on the freezing height of 13,048 feet at Rohtang Pass.

Braving killer blizzards, they spent four nights without food and survived on distilled water in two Qualis vehicles after getting stranded on the highway between Koksar and Rohtang Pass.

For over 30 Nepalese labourers, the experience was no different. Higher on the Rohtang top and braving bone-chilling blizzards, they and their children along with some truck drivers survived on boiled potatoes in the stranded Manali-bound trucks loaded with potatoes till today when all were finally rescued by a joint team from the Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, and Explore Himalayas, Manali, from the Rohtang top and brought to Manali.

Mr Roshan Lal, Mr Dhuni Chand and Mr Sunder Singh, a former pardhan from Palchan, brought the family from West Bengal on their backs from Rohtang top to Rahni Nullah, from where they were brought down in vehicles to Marhi, a tourist spot about 50 km from Manali and 140 km from here.

“We had only chappals and woollen. Villagers at Koksar gave us biscuits and distilled water, dal, rice and boiled potatoes. However, I and my sister could not eat as we were feeling nausea tic, said Ms Rita Sarkar, one of the Bengali tourists. “We had lost hope of survival, as we had never experienced such severe snow and cold before. No official or police came to help us for four days”, she rued, narrating her tale of nightmare to TNS from Circuit House, Manali, where she is recovering from the trauma with her family members.

Mr Vishawanath Anand, another member of the family said they had gone to Keylong five days ago from Manali and wanted to visit Tabo and Kaza in Spiti. “It started snowing and we moved back to Koksar and but got stuck in snow near the Rohtang Pass. Nobody guided us about the hazards in the high-mountains”, added the tourist.

Last night, the tourists were given food and had to spend the night in trucks, as it would have been fatal to rescue them too late in the night, said Mr Amitabh Sharma, managing director, Explore Himalayas, who went up to Rahni Nullah along with SDM Manali, Mr Rameshwar Sharma, and Deputy Superintendent of Police, Manali, Mr Kushal Sharma, to guide the rescue operation today.

Mr BR Verma, Deputy Commissioner, Lahaul and Spiti, said they had closed the Pass for people today till the highway was cleared. “The people were stuck in the trucks before the district administration stepped in”.

For the past two days, over 121 persons are reported to have crossed the Pass on foot and they have been given food for free by dhaba-owners at Marhi. “Women suffered from hypertension and have suffered snow burns”, said Dr A Negi, a medical officer, who examined the stranded passengers at Marhi today. “All members have taken food and are reported to be normal”.

Sources said Rahni Nullah, about 5 km short of the Rohtang top, had accumulated over 12 ft of snow, accumulated due to snowstorm for the past four days. “The road which was cleared yesterday was filled with snow due to blizzards last night. It will take time as the trucks are stranded on the road and it take time for the dozer to move ahead clearing the snow”, they said.

Mr Verma added that there was no vehicle stranded beyond Jispa, about 25 km from the Keylong side. “All vehicles have reached Keylong and Koksar are have been provided food and lodging in rest houses and the Army camps”.

In all 70 persons have so far been rescued.

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