Search under way for bodies buried in snow in Himachal


Manali: Rescue workers Saturday started search operations to retrieve the bodies of eight people who were buried in the snow near the Rohtang Pass as strong icy winds lashed Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district Friday, an official said.

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“Rescue workers of the (Manali-based) Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports and the police this (Saturday) morning started search operations for the eight bodies buried in snow near the Rohtang Pass,” Deputy Commissioner (Kullu) B.M. Nanta told IANS.

The victims, mostly labourers from Jharkhand, were killed Friday when they were caught in high velocity winds near the snow-capped Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet). They were crossing the pass on foot.

They might have slipped off icy tracks due to high velocity winds or died due to severe cold conditions, Nanta said.

According to the official, the weather was clear Saturday morning and serach operations would go along smoothly.

“We are trying to retrieve the bodies before noon as after that, snow conditions and cold weather conditions might get extreme near the mountain passes,” he said.

Over 75 people, mostly labourers of the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF), were caught in strong winds around 1.30 p.m. near the Rohtang Pass when they were coming from the Lahaul valley in Lahaul and Spiti district. Eight died on the spot and the others managed to reach safety. They had been stranded across the valley for the past 11 days due to heavy snowfall.

The Rohtang Pass, the gateway to the Lahaul valley, has been closed to traffic since Nov 9 due to heavy snowfall.

Located 52 km from here, the Rohtang Pass connects Manali with Leh in Jammu and Kashmir. It also plays an important role in the movement of the armed forces to the forward areas in Ladakh.

The weather at the Rohtang Pass is harsh. A sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions.