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Landslides, flash floods in Himachal claim 16 lives; 8 missing

Shimla : Thirty-four incidents of landslide, flash flood and cloudburst in Himachal Pradesh owing to heavy rainfall on Saturday claimed 16 lives, officials said, adding eight others have been missing.

Mandi, Kangra and Chamba were the worst affected districts, officials said. The railway bridge over the Chakki river on the border of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh also collapsed in the calamity.

As many as 742 roads and 172 water supply schemes were disrupted in the state, an official statement quoting Principal Secretary (Revenue) Onkar Chand Sharma said.

The Chief Engineer (PWD) said out of 742 roads, 407 of them restored by Saturday and 268 would be repaired by Sunday.

At a review meeting here, Chief Secretary R.D. Dhiman directed the PWD to ensure that all roads are cleared at the earliest so that there is no disruption in the providing basic amenities in the affected areas.

He also directed Deputy Commissioners to ensure videography of the damage caused by heavy rainfall and to provide shelters to the affected people in the camps.

Principal Secretary Sharma said Rs 232.31 crore has been released to the districts from the State Disaster Response Fund and sufficient funds are available with all the districts to carry out the relief and rehabilitation works.

The Chief Secretary directed that the Department of Energy to issue necessary directions to Pong dam and Chamera dam authorities to keep a check on the water level of the reservoirs and to issue timely warnings in case of any eventuality.

In the worst affected Mandi district, 10 bodies were recovered — eight from Kashang village and two from Sadoha village — as rescue operation is underway for the missing people. National Disaster Response Force and SDRF personnel have been deployed in the rescue operation in the area.

The road between Mandi and Kullu towns via Kataula has been blocked since Friday night due to landslides in the area. Even landslides hampered the Chandigarh-Manali highway beyond Mandi.

State disaster management director Sudesh Kumar Mokhta told the media here that of the 22 people, 18 were evacuated safely in Hamirpur district.

The 800-metre-long railway bridge over the Chakki river in Pathankot collapsed after flash flood washed away a bridge pillar.

The narrow-gauge train service between Pathankot and Jogindernagar, commissioned by the British in 1928, was stopped last month after the bridge developed cracks. Now, the pillar has been washed away.

Expressing his grief over the loss of lives and damage to property due to heavy rains across the state, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur ordered all district administration to undertake relief and rescue operations.

“Relief and rescue operations are being carried out on a war-footing with the local administrations in the respective areas,” he said.

The government has advised tourists to check weather advisory before travelling and not to go near rivers as most of them are in spate.

The local Met office has issued heavy rainfall and thunderstorm warning in low and mid hills till August 21.

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