All stranded tourists rescued in rain-hit Himachal

Shimla, June 24 (IANS) Almost all the stranded tourists in the high altitude areas of rain-ravaged Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh have been rescued by the Indian Air Force (IAF), an official said here Monday.

A total of 118 tourists, comprising also 14 Americans, the last batch of stranded visitors to the area, were airlifted Monday from across Kinnaur, which was cut off from the rest of the state since June 16. Three IAF choppers were used to airlift the 118 people.

"Now almost all the tourists have been evacuated from Sangla, Nako, Pooh, Kaza, Gyabong and Rekong Peo," Special Secretary (Revenue) Amandeep Garg, who was monitoring the rescue operation here, told IANS.

He said that in the past seven days, over 1,100 tourists were airlifted by the choppers of the IAF and the state government.

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

Ninety-seven tourists, including 14 US nationals, who were stranded in the picturesque Sangla Valley, were airlifted in five IAF sorties Monday, R.K. Bhardwaj, who is assisting the rescue operations in Sangla, said.

He said that Sangla, some 275 km from here, now has no more stranded tourists. Many of the 400 stranded people here were from West Bengal and Punjab.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who was also stranded in Sangla for over 60 hours, was airlifted June 18.

Deputy Commissioner J.M. Pathania said the road link between state capital Shimla and district headquarters Rekong Peo was restored Sunday, after a week's closure.

Pathania said work is now continuing to reopen the 70-km road link between Rekong Peo and Pooh.

Transport Minister G.S. Bali said bus services of the Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) had been restored between Rekong Peo and state capital Shimla.

He said efforts were being made to restore bus services on other roads of Kinnaur, which had been blocked due to heavy rain and landslides.

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