Evacuation on foot begins in Himachal's Sangla Valley

Shimla, June 23 (IANS) Evacuation of the stranded tourists from Himachal Pradesh's picturesque Sangla Valley, which has been cut off from the rest of state owing to last week's flash-floods, began Sunday morning, officials said.

"The first batch of 12 tourists left for Karcham from Sangla. They are assisted by a 14-member rescue team of the National Disaster Management Authority," R.K. Bhardwaj, who is assisting the rescue operations in Sangla, some 275 km from here, told IANS.

A majority of the tourists who opted for trekking are from Hyderabad.

Incessant rainfall in the region June 16 triggered massive landslides that blocked a majority of roads in Kinnaur district.

Bhardwaj said the state government and the Indian Air Force choppers have so far airlifted 250 tourists.

"Still 250 are stranded in Sangla area. Four sorties are planned for today (Sunday) but no chopper came in the morning owing to foggy weather at the landing areas (Shimla and Rampur towns)," he said over phone.

Officials said the trekking distance between Sangla and Karcham is seven km but road distance is 18 km.

"The road link to the Sangla Valley has not been restored so far. Landslides clearing operation is on but there is a massive destruction to the road near Kupa village," an official said.

The government evacuated over 820 tourists, mainly the sick, the old and women, till Saturday.

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