Tribune News Service
Mandi, June 26
Hundreds of commuters were stranded in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district as the Chandigarh-Manali national highway was blocked following flash floods and landslides, officials said on Monday.
The 70-km Mandi-Pandoh-Kullu stretch has been badly affected, they said. A long traffic jam was observed from Nerchowk to Mandi on the Chandigarh-Manali highway as the road was blocked between Mandi and Pandoh in Mandi district.
Hundreds of tourists travelling towards Kullu-Manali from the Mandi side or coming to Mandi from the Kullu side were inconvenienced as they had to spend the night in the vehicles.
However, the police diverted the movement of light vehicles between Mandi and Kullu via the Chailchowk-Pandoh route. But the heavy vehicles are still stuck on the highway. Additional Superintendent of Police Sagar Chander said the restoration work is under way and the road is expected to be thrown open for traffic in the afternoon.
He said the road between Mandi and Kullu via Kataula is also blocked, so travellers are advised to use the Chailchowk-Pandoh route to travel from Mandi to Kullu.
The Mandi-Pandoh stretch was blocked near 6 Miles after a landslide. The officials said restoration work is underway and explosives are being used to blast heavy boulders blocking roads on this stretch. One way traffic is expected to be restored on this stretch in an hour or two, they said.
However, rains have started again and reports of landslides are coming from other places in the district.
The commuters have been advised not to move towards Mandi until the road is opened, the officials added.
“It is a nightmarish experience as we have been stuck here since yesterday evening. There are limited hotels and other accommodations available nearby,” said Mohit, a tourist from Chandigarh.
There are over two km of jam on both the sides even though the police and administration have stopped traffic at several points on the stretch as the road is blocked, he added.
“We have been struck since last evening as the road is closed. A large number of vehicles are stranded on both sides of the roads at Aut and 6 Miles,” said Prashant, a stranded commuter who was returning to Mandi town from Chandigarh.
Public Works Department Minister Vikramaditya Singh said as many as 301 roads have been blocked due to heavy rains.
Out of these roads, 180 would be opened by Monday evening, 15 by Tuesday and the remaining by June 30 depending on the weather conditions, Singh told reporters.
As many as 390 JCBs, dozers and tippers have been deployed to clear the roads and the department would release a number on which the people can report road related issues by today evening, he added.
There are about 30 road stretches prone to frequent landslides in the state. So far, during the ongoing monsoon season which started on June 24, the PWD has suffered a loss to the tune of about Rs 27 crore.
On Sunday, flash floods triggered by a cloudburst in Solan and Hamirpur districts and heavy rains in Shimla, Mandi and Kullu killed two people, damaged crops, homes and vehicles, and washed away livestock.
According to the State Emergency Operation Centre, one person each drowned in Hamirpur and Shimla districts. The rain also damaged 11 houses and several vehicles as well as four cowsheds.
Moderate to heavy rains have also lashed several parts of Kangra, Mandi and Sirmaur districts.
Dharamshala in Kangra was the wettest with 107 mm of rain followed by Kataula and Bhattiyat 75 mm each, Gohar 67 mm, Mandi 56 mm, Pandoh 50 mm, Poanta Sahib 43 mm, Nagrota Suriyan 39 mm, Kothi 37 mm, Jogindernagar 36 mm and Palampur 32.2 mm.
The local weather office has issued an orange alert for heavy to very heavy rain, thunderstorm and lightning at isolated places on Monday and Tuesday and yellow alert of heavy rain, thunderstorm and lightning on June 28 and 29. (With Agency Inputs)