Tourists in 400 cars rescued after being stuck near Atal Tunnel for 12 hours
Tourists stranded in over 400 vehicles following snowfall near South Portal of Atal Tunnel in Himachal Pradesh’s Rohtang Pass have been rescued, officials said on Friday.
The vehicles were stuck after roads became too slippery following snowfall on the Manali-Leh highway and surrounding areas on Thursday.
Police teams from Keylong and Manali jointly launched a rescue operation, which took around 10 to 12 hours and concluded around 4 am on Friday. The vehicles finally set off for their respective destinations, the officials said. They have all safely crossed South Portal.
The tourists, however, were far from being distressed by the situation. They said they were thrilled to see and enjoy the snowfall.
Deputy Commissioner, Lahaul and Spiti, Sumit Khimta, said food arrangements were made for the stranded tourists and locals.
“Tourists have been advised to drive cautiously,” said Deputy Commissioner, Kullu, Ashutosh Garg.
A large number of tourists are thronging Kullu and Manali to celebrate New Year, and the footfall is expected to rise after this snowfall.
The huge number of vehicles on the road has led to frequent traffic jams, but the occupancy of registered rooms reportedly does not match the vehicular traffic. It seems many tourists are staying in unauthorised properties, president of Manali Hoteliers Association, Mukesh Thakur, said.
In particular, Dalhousie, Saloni, and Churah areas of Chamba district and Pangi Valley received snowfall and have been cut off from the rest of the state.
Tourists also enjoyed snow in Kalpa in Kinnaur district, as well as in Kufri and Narkanda in Shimla district and Kukumseri in Lahaul and Spiti.
Kothi received 15 cm of snow, followed by Khadrala, Udaipur and Kalpa (5 cm each), Pooh and Sangla (4 cm each), Gondla, Shillaro, and Kukumseri (3 cm each).
Traffic was also disrupted on a few routes in Shimla, Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti, the officials said.
The local Meteorological Centre (MeT) has predicted dry weather on December 31. Hoteliers across the state are gearing up for New Year and offering special dinners, parties, and competitions to tourists.
Moreover, the MeT office has predicted dry weather in the region till January 3 but warned of moderate to dense fog during the morning hours in isolated pockets over plains and low hills, where the cold wave is likely to continue.
The minimum temperature further dipped marginally in the state, and Keylong in tribal Lahaul and Spiti was the coldest place at minus 6.3 degrees Celsius.
(With agency inputs)