Several dead, dozens trapped after landslide in India’s Himalayas

More than 200 personnel are working to find survivors after boulders tumbled onto a major highway, Indian officials say.

National Disaster Response Force personnel are seen during rescue operations at the site of a landslide at the Reckong Peo-Shimla Highway in Kinnaur District in Himachal Pradesh [National Disaster Response Force/AFP]

A landslide in the mountainous Indian state of Himachal Pradesh has killed at least 10 people, injured 14 and left dozens trapped after boulders tumbled onto a major highway, smashing and burying several vehicles, Indian officials have said.

A statement on Wednesday from Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jairam Thakur’s office said “about 60 people are feared to be buried under the debris”.

Those that are still trapped include passengers that are inside a bus stuck under the debris, Vivek Kumar Pandey, a spokesman for the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), told the Reuters news agency.

“There has been a massive landslide on the Reckong Peo-Shimla highway,” Pandey said, later adding that “operations are under way; we are trying to reach the bus.”

A police official at the site told the AFP news agency that rocks were still falling in the area.

The 14 rescued people had injuries “but should be OK after treatment”, the official added.

Abid Hussain Sadiq, a top government official in the Kinnaur district where the incident happened, said that rescue operations could continue through the night in an attempt to find the survivors.

More than 200 personnel are working to find survivors following a landslide in Kinnaur District in Himachal Pradesh [Indo Tibetan Border Police/AFP]

More than 200 personnel, including from the army, paramilitary forces and local police, are working along a stretch of National Highway 5 that runs along the Sutlej River and connects northern India to the border with China, officials said.

Local police chief Saju Ram Rana said the landslide, which took place around noon on Wednesday, loosened large boulders and sent them cascading down the steep mountainside, blocking about 150 metres (492 feet) of the highway.

“The debris fell from quite high up,” Rana told Reuters, adding that heavy machinery was being brought in to clear the area.

In pictures shared by authorities on social media, helmeted rescue workers can be seen scrambling around the mangled remains of vehicles stranded among rocks and loose earth.

“The bus, which was reported under the rubble, is visible now. Earth mover machines are clearing the debris. It will take one to two hours to reach the bus,” the ITBP said in an update from the rescue site.

Landslides are common in India’s northern Himalayan region, particularly in the current monsoon season when heavy rains lead to subsidence of earth and rocks.

The situation is exacerbated by climate change making the monsoon more erratic and melting glaciers higher in the mountains. Roads in the region are also often poorly maintained.

In late July, at least nine people were killed by a landslide in a different part of Kinnaur district, and dozens have been left stranded by landslides and flooding in recent weeks in another area of Himachal Pradesh, a scenic Himalayan state popular with tourists.

Source: News Agencies