Tribune News Service
Mandi, January 3
Fresh snowfall in Himachal Pradesh played a spoilsport for tourists heading towards the Lahaul valley as over 300 of them got stranded near Atal Tunnel on Saturday evening. They were later rescued by the authorities.
A large number of tourist vehicles crossed the tunnel on Saturday morning to visit the Lahaul valley but in the evening, they could not find any resting place in Lahaul due to heavy snowfall and were stranded midway while returning to Manali. The vehicles were caught in a long traffic jam due to snow and slippery roads. The Kullu district administration along with the Border Roads Organisation started the rescue operation in the evening to evacuate the stranded tourists.
Around 70 vehicles, including a 48-seater bus, a 24-seater police bus and one police quick reaction team, were deployed for the tourists’ rescue.
The rescue operation, which carried on for hours, ended at 2 am. All stranded tourists were rescued from Dhundhi and South Portal of the tunnel and were taken to safer places in Manali.
According to Kullu SP Gaurav Singh, all tourists were rescued from the area successfully. He said owing to heavy snowfall in the area, around 75 tourist vehicles were stranded for hours between Atal Tunnel and the Solang valley.
According to the Meteorological Department forecast, more snowfall around the tunnel is expected in the coming days.
Issuing a yellow weather warning for heavy snowfall in Himachal Pradesh, the MeT Department had forecast rain and snowfall in mid and high hills of the state from January 3 to 5 and on January 8.
The world’s longest tunnel at an altitude of 10,040 feet, Atal Tunnel has become a tourist destination since it was thrown open to the public in October. Due to heavy snow on ground in the area, the traffic movement has been restricted towards the tunnel for the next few days.