In a grim turn of events, numerous regions in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have been plunged into chaos as floodwaters surged due to the opening of floodgates at the Bhakra and Pong dams. This dire situation has arisen due to the rapid accumulation of rainwater over the past three days in the hilly terrains. Tragically, the death toll from rain-related incidents since August 14 has surged to a staggering 72 in Himachal Pradesh alone.
Regions Severely Affected
Ropar and Gurdaspur, among the hardest-hit areas, witnessed the destructive force of nature firsthand. The Sutlej River wreaked havoc on villages situated between Nangal and Anandpur Sahib in the Ropar district. Simultaneously, the Beas River inundated substantial parts of Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, and Kapurthala districts. Adding to the distress, villages in the Tarn Taran district found themselves caught in the crossfire of both rampaging rivers.
Although the inflow into the Bhakra and Pong dams is gradually subsiding, authorities have decided to keep the floodgates open for a minimum of three more days. Water levels have reached precarious heights, with the Pong Dam registering 1,399.65 feet on Wednesday morning, surpassing the safe threshold of 1,390 feet. At the Bhakra Dam, the water level escalated to 1,677 feet, leaving just a mere three feet before reaching the maximum allowable limit of 1,680 feet.
Tense Moments for Villagers
The inhabitants of approximately 60 villages in the Mand area, along the pathways of the Beas and Sutlej rivers flowing towards the Harike headworks, experienced nerve-wracking hours as they grappled with the imminent threat of flooding. By day’s end, many had been compelled to relocate to relief camps to escape the advancing deluge.
The administration of Gurdaspur issued an urgent plea for assistance, reaching out to the Army, NDRF (National Disaster Response Force), and SDRF (State Disaster Response Force) after 36 villages were engulfed by floodwaters. In Kapurthala district’s Talwandi Kuka village, over 250 individuals were evacuated to a relief camp, with nearly 200 more remaining stranded. Similarly, numerous villages in the Talwara area of Hoshiarpur district were inundated, with Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh also grappling with the swelling Beas River, necessitating the rescue of over 1,300 residents. IAF helicopters were deployed for the airlifting of stranded individuals, while around 150 still await rescue.
Challenges and Losses
Despite repeated warnings about escalating water levels, some residents, deeply attached to their homes and livestock, hesitated to evacuate. In the Kangra district, particularly in villages such as Badala, Bela, Indora, Mand Sanour, Ulehrian, and Mand, the situation remains dire.
In the midst of these calamities, a tragedy struck Shimla, as five buildings collapsed in Krishnanagar on Tuesday, claiming two lives. Fortunately, the loss of life was minimized as the buildings had been vacated earlier. However, a sense of urgency prevails as recovery efforts at the Summer Hill temple in Shimla continue. Following a landslide, 13 bodies have been retrieved from the debris, though hopes of finding survivors are dwindling after nearly 60 hours have elapsed since the catastrophe.
The monsoon’s devastating onslaught in Himachal Pradesh has resulted in a toll of 327 lives lost, with 38 individuals still missing. The state’s vehicular mobility has been severely hampered, particularly along the Chandigarh-Manali highway, blocked at multiple points between Mandi and Pandoh.