7 killed in J&K cloudburst, several missing; 9 die in Himachal Pradesh flash floods

JAMMU/MANALI: Seven people died and many are feared missing in Honzar village of J&K’s Kishtwar district, as a cloudburst swept away houses, a ration depot, a bridge and other properties early Wednesday. Followed by flash floods in Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti and Chamba districts on Tuesday night and early Wednesday, nine people died in Himachal while several were reported missing.

The remote village of Honzar in Kishtwar is a three-hour walk from the nearest road, but rescue teams from the Army, police and SDRF swung into action and reached the spot in time to save many lives. Officials said that the cloudburst struck Honzar village around 4.30 am. Seventeen people injured in the incident were rescued while over 20 people are still missing, Kishtwar district development commissioner Ashok Kumar Sharma said.

Referring to similar incidents in other parts of the district, Sharma said that two cloudbursts struck the remote Lambard area the previous night, but no loss of life was reported. He also said that 60 families were evacuated from the Paddar area in the wake of incessant rain.

Commandant General V K Singh of the SDRF said, “One of our SDRF teams from Kishtwar has reached the affected village and two more teams are on their way from Doda and Udhampur districts. Two SDRF teams are waiting for the weather to improve to be airlifted from Jammu and Srinagar to join the rescue mission.” He also said that an NDRF team from Ludhiana is on the way to Kishtwar. Jammu-based defence spokesperson Lt Col Devender Anand said, “Two Army columns have been mobilised to assist the civil administration in the rescue operations.” Union minister and local MP Jitendra Singh said that he had spoken to the DM and Air Force authorities and asked them to airlift the injured as and when required.

In Himachal’s Lahaul, ten people, including four BRO employees, were washed away following a flash flood in Tozing nullah on Tuesday night. Seven bodies have been recovered while three are still missing and four, including one tourist from Ghaziabad, were reportedly swept away in the flash flood in Brahmaganga rivulet in Kullu’s Manikaran valley. All are still missing.

One JCB helper too was washed away in the Chamba district and another person fell off a cliff. They were identified as Sunil Kumar and Nikku, residents of Chamba. According to officials, a cloudburst in Tozing nullah in Lahaul washed away two tents of labourers and three vehicles — one was a BRO JCB trying to pull out the vehicles.

“Two people were injured and one of them was referred to Kullu hospital. Seven bodies were recovered from the debris. We had sought help from NDRF, while our disaster management, BRO, police and ITBP teams are already engaged in the rescue operation”, Lahaul-Spiti deputy commissioner Neeraj Kumar said. The deceased were all from the Mandi district. One body is still unidentified while part of a body has been recovered from the debris.

In Kullu, three vehicles got hit by debris as torrential rains triggered flooding of the local nullah in Loran. In Lahaul-Spiti district, a major bridge at Jahlma village in Lahaul was washed away and most of the nullahs were in spate. Many roads, including Gramphu-Kaza and Darcha-Shinkula stretches, were blocked due to landslides at multiple places. A landslide at Karting village trapped nearly 50 vehicles. Another was reported from Hawai Mod on Tandi-Udaipur road. Jahalma nullah, Shaks nullah, Changut and Udgos nullah and Mooning nullah witnessed flash floods that washed away vehicles, roads and agricultural land.