Dehradun: About 25 people were feared dead, including six Army personnel, after a massive landslide hit Malpa village on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra route and washed away an Army camp in the nearby Ghatiyabagad area following a cloudburst in Uttarakhand’s Dharchula tehsil in Pithoragarh district early on Monday morning.
Five bodies have been recovered so far. Army has launched massive search operations amid bad weather even as the area remains cut off, with the highway and bridges washed away. Among the missing Army personnel were one junior commissioned officer and five jawans, who sources said belonged to Kumaon Scouts. The camp, near Tawaghat on the Mansarovar Yatra route, had around 100 personnel when it was swamped under the waters of a rivulet, Mangti nullah.
“Till late evening, rescue teams had recovered four bodies from Malpa, while the body of a woman was fished out from Mangti nullah. Eight people including six Armymen are missing in Ghatiyabagad while four personnel were rescued,” Pithoragarh DM C Ravishankar said.
Authorities said there were 15-20 people missing in Malpa alone, which was the site of one of India’s worst landslides that killed 200 in 1998, including danseuse Protima Bedi.
As rescuers battled bad weather and rough terrain to search for survivors of the landslide and flash floods in Pithoragarh district, there was still no clarity on the number of people missing.
“It is not clear yet how many people were present at the landslide-hit area in Malpa. At least four shops have been totally buried under the debris. While we have official confirmation of four persons missing from the village, the number could be higher,” the Pithoragarh DM said.
Meanwhile, rescue operations continued throughout Monday, with teams of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Sashastra Seema Bal and Army being pressed into service. Choppers were also used to search for the missing Army persons although bouts of bad weather hampered the rescue operations.
Sources said that over 45-metres of the strategic Tawaghat-Pangla highway had been wiped out while three walking bridges between Malpa and Pangla had been washed away. This has completely cut off the disasteraffected areas from district headquarters Pithoragarh.
Because of the disaster, the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra was also suspended till further notice. CM Trivendra Singh Rawat and cabinet minister Prakash Pant reached Pithoragarh in the afternoon to take stock of the situation. However, they could not carry out an aerial survey of the disaster- affected areas due to bad weather.
Meanwhile, 600 villages in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh were flooded after 1.88 lakh cusecs of water was released from Nepal on Sunday. The water released from Gopiya barrage on the Nepal border flooded the Saryu river and submerged villages in the vicinity.