A resident of this tourist town was killed in a cloudburst late on Friday night in the Seri Nullah and Beas Kund glacier upstream of Dhundi, about 25 km from here. Besides washing away a car along with its occupant, the gushing waters breached the Manali-Leh national highway at five points uphill from Manali, two bailey bridges, 40 huts, 40 ‘khohas’, BRO’s condemned vehicles, a link road to an Army transit camp and snapped water and electricity supplies to Solang and Rohtang tunnel.
The surging Solang river pumped heaps of debris, trees and boulders all over its 10 km-long course between Manali bridge and Palchan village and flooded the BRO’s labour camps here.
The Beas river has changed its course below Palchan village – moving towards the left – turning the valley into a deluge-scarred area. The victim has been identified as Amit, son of Anrup Chaupall of Manali. The body was retrieved from the river at 15 Meel downstream. Due to the timely evacuation of labourers from the huts and others living in the guest houses at Bahang, Nehru Kund and Palchan, no other loss to life has been reported so far, said SDM Manali Balbir Thakur.He said that 82 ‘khokhas’, a house at Nehru kund, a trout fish farm and a stone crusher were washed away in the waters.
The villagers and labourers in the BRO and Rohtang tunnel project were evacuated before 9 pm when the flood entered the low-lying areas of Palchan, Nehru Kund and Bahang along the left bank of the Beas.
The flash flood also washed away the retaining walls of a government high school and a primary school in Palchan and 4-5 vehicles of the BRO. A petrol station at Bahang was partially damaged. Traffic on the Manali-Rohtang-Leh highway came to a grinding halt as the 10 km-long Palchan-Manali stretch of the highway was breached by the surging Beas at five points.
In upper Manali, Palchan, Solang, Kothi, Marhi, Rohtang and Lahaul-Spiti have been cut off from Manali due to the breaches in the highway. Tourists and locals have been forced to go from place to place on foot. Work on 8.82 km-long strategic Rohtang Tunnel came to a halt as a bailey bridge, along with a 150m-long approach road connecting the south portal to Solang, has been washed away.
“The 30m-long road near the Solang valley resort has also been hit. It will take more than a month to restore connectivity to the south portal,” said SP Sharma, in charge of the project. The flash flood also washed away a bailey bridge and damaged a concrete bridge – yet to be opened to traffic – and a link road to the transit army camp at Palchan, cutting it off from the main road.
As boulders, debris and trees blocked the concrete bridge, the flash flood got diverted leftwards. This movement threatened hutments and guest houses at Bahang, Nehru Kund, SASE headquarters and the BRO labour huts out of which 40 have been washed away.
The restoration work launched by the civil administration, BRO, Army and police was on to clear the blockade after the river receded by 3m today. According to villagers, the river rose 8m from its normal level.
Yogesh Nayyar of the BRO Command said that it would take more than a week to restore these points. “We are trying to set up a temporary link to restore connectivity, but it would take more than two days to do so,” he added.
Amitabh Awasthi, DC, Kullu, and Ashok Kumar, SP, Kullu, along with the SDM inspected the damage and monitored the restoration work today. The damage is being assessed and may be in the excess of Rs 50 crore, the officials said.