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Himachal: Over 4,900 New Cases, 53 Deaths in March; Educational Institutes May Remain Closed Until April 15

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educational institutes closed in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Educational Institutes in Himachal Pradesh are likely to remain closed for at least two more weeks as the State Education Directorate yesterday recommended it in a meeting held to review the COVID-19 situation. Earlier, the government had announced closure of schools until April 4 due to the rising COVID-19 cases. But the scheduled examinations would not be cancelled, the Directorate clarified.

The Health Department was also said to be in favour of this recommendation by the Education Directorate, but the final decision was yet to be announced by the state government. The recommendations were made in view of the surging COVID-19 cases and fatalities. Further, the government has already admitted that the ongoing second wave is acute and more lethal.

Also Read: New Strain More Lethal & Acute, say Health Officials   

While six COVID-19 deaths were reported on Tuesday, the virus claimed three more on Wednesday, March 31.

In March, the state reported 4,960 new COVID-19 cases and 53 fatalities. The fatality rate has remained higher as compared to the first wave of the novel coronavirus. The number of active cases jumped to 2,973 on March 31 in comparison to only 318 on February 28. From about 47 daily cases at the end of February, the state reported almost 150 cases daily in March.

While officials of the health department are in favour of taking quick preventive measures, the state government is showing a lax attitude in taking any concrete decisions. A delay, an official of the health department said, on the condition of anonymity, would prove to be lethal for the people of the state.

Recently, a report released by the State Bank of India had predicted that the second wave would be at its peak by mid-April.

While several other states, including neighbouring Uttarakhand, has decided to make a COVID-19 negative report mandatory to enter the state, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur is procrastinating as campaigning for the elections to four Municipal Corporations of the state is in full swing. The campaigning is making it only difficult to make people follow COVID-19 SOPs and adhere to COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. Chief Minister is himself campaigning aggressively and attending public gatherings.

Some concerned officials of the health department and district administrations expressed fear that the lives of the people are being put at stake for political interest. Some of them suggested that testing is still low and the current situation asks for a manyfold increase in the rate of testing.

The people have also lowered their guards and showing laxity in following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. A large number of people can be seen carrying out election campaigning and attending public gatherings without wearing masks or maintaining social distancing.

Pertinent to mention that Chief Minister has been completely rejecting any possibility of a lockdown but had been suggesting strict restrictions in the coming days. Further, Chief Minister was not in favour of putting restrictions on tourist movement as it would foil the peak season for the industry on the second consecutive year.

Meanwhile, tourist influx has reported a drastic drop as the nation-wide surge in cases continues amid the second wave of the pandemic carrying deadlier variants of the coronavirus. Hoteliers in Shimla reported that almost 50 percent of tourists have already cancelled bookings. The industry stakeholders are yet again in dilemma over the fate of this year’s peak season. They fear that the industry can’t bear another setback.

According to the Union Health Ministry, six States – Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat – continue to report a surge in the COVID new cases daily. 78.56 percent of new cases are reported from these six states. India reported 56,211 new cases in the last 24 hours (from the time of writing).

Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 31,643. It is followed by Punjab with 2,868 while Karnataka reported 2,792 new cases.

A total of 6,24,08,333 vaccine doses have been given, as per the provisional report till 7 pm on March 31.

These include 82,00,007 HCWs who have taken the 1st dose and 52,07,368 HCWs who have taken the 2nd dose, 90,08,905 FLWs (1st dose), 37,70,603 FLWs (2nd dose), 2,90,20,989 1st dose beneficiaries and 36,899 2nd dose beneficiaries more than 60 years old and 71,58,657 (1st dose) and 4,905 (2nd dose) beneficiaries aged 45 and above with specific co-morbidities, according to the Ministry.

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Kinnaur Landslide: 14 Bodies Recovered in 30 Hours, Several Still Missing

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Kinnaur landslide rescue operation photos

Kinnaur: Landslide in Kinnaur district is unfolding as one of the biggest catastrophe in Himachal Pradesh as the of fatality count continues to rise. After 30 hours of the rescue operation, which was hampered multiple times due to shooting stones at the site, 14 dead bodies had been recovered till the suspension of the operation on Thursday evening. While 10 bodies were recovered on Wednesday, four more were exhumed from the rubble on Thursday.

As many as 15 persons were rescued and taken to Bhavanagar CHC for treatment.

The wreckage of the HP Road Transport Corporation bus was found scattered about 500 meters below the National Highway-5 in Nigulsari – the site of the massive landslide. The condition of the wreckage suggested there was little hope of survival of any passenger. The distraught relatives of the missing persons remained at the site, grieving with diminishing hope to see their family members alive as the rescue operation for today was suspended.

Kinnaur HRTC Bus wreckage

HRTC Bus Wreckage

The state of exhumed bodies added to the horror of the families, as well as, the rescuers. Some of the bodies were in such a state that their identification was next to impossible. While some bodies had their limbs cut off, one of them was found without the head.

As the rescue operation would be entering its third day on Friday, the death toll is likely to rise as the driver of the bus, who had survived the accident and was seriously injured, had estimated that 25-30 passengers were onboard when the landslide pushed it down the NH.

Further, there is still no sign of one vehicle (Bolero SUV), informed Director, State Disaster Management, Sudesh Kumar Mokhta. The exact number of people feared to be buried under the rubble was yet to be ascertained. According to the district administration, based on calls received from families, the number of missing people could be anywhere between 30-50.

Kinnaur rescue operation resumes

Meanwhile, some family members of the missing persons complained that while the rescue operation was initiated immediately from the Negulsari side, JCB machines took over five hours to reach the spot from the Chauri side. They complained that such a big delay was crucial and could have saved more lives.

It’s pertinent to mention that the HRTC bus had remained untraceable on Wednesday and the wreckage was found on the second day of the rescue operation. However, most passengers were yet to be traced.  

According to the Deputy Commandant, ITBP, Dharmender Thakur, shooting stones and sliding rubble posed a huge challenge for the rescue teams, which comprised of hundreds of personnel of NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, local police, and CISF. Undertaking this operation on a steep slope further created difficult circumstances for the teams. The lives of the rescuers were also at risk as the site remained vulnerable to reactivation of landslide.

This landslide in the Kinnaur district has become a matter of debate for geologists, environmentalists, seismologists and climatologists. Unscientific cutting of fragile mountains and blasting for the widening of roads and construction of tunnels for hydropower projects, changing patterns of rains, and seismic activity are being referred to be the reasons behind the increased incidents of landslides, especially in Kinnaur district.

At the same time, the inability of the state government to consider technical suggestions given by geological experts from time to time for mitigation of such hazards is also finding mention in the critical comments given by experts. The lackadaisical attitude of the government in the adoption of technologies, such as the early warning system developed by the IIT Mandi for mountainous regions vulnerable to landslides, is also attracting criticism.

It’s pertinent to mention that after the Kotrupi disaster – a massive landslide that had buried two buses and claimed 48 lives in August 2017-experts from IIT Mandi had carried out surveys and studies and provided several suggestions for minimizing damages, which fell into deaf ears.  

The deceased were identified as:

  1. Rohit Kumar
  2. Vanshuka
  3. Meera Devi
  4. Nitisha
  5. Prem Kumar
  6. Gyan Dassi
  7. Devi Chand
  8. Kumari Radhika
  9. Bhupender
  10. Kamlesh Kumar
  11. Lakshman Thapa
  12. Vijay Kumar

Two others were yet to be identified. The state government has announced ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs 5o thousand to the injured. HRTC has also announced Rs. 1 lakh ex-gratia to the passengers of the bus killed in the mishap. 

Further, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and several other political leader visited the spot and met the relatives of victims on Thursday. 

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Kinnaur Tragedy: HRTC Bus Wreckage Found, Death Toll Rises to 13 and Likely Rise

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Kinnaur HRTC Bus wreckage

Kinnaur-The rescue operation at the site of the landslide in Nigulsari, Nichar Tehsil of the Kinnaur district, was resumed on Thursday morning. The wreckage of the ill-fated bus of the HP Road Transport Corporation was found 500 meters below the road and about 200 meters above the Sutlej River. The pictures showed that the bus was completely crushed and torn to pieces. 

So far, 13 dead bodies had been recovered and 14 injured including the driver and the conductor of the HRTC bus, which was on its way from Reckong Peo to Haridwar, were rescued and taken to hospital. The death toll is likely to rise as the passengers were yet to be traced. According to the driver, there were 25-30 passengers in the bus when it was hit by the landslide. A Bolero SUV alongwith passengers was also missing and was yet to be traced.  

Kinnaur rescue operation resumes

The mishap occurred at about 12:30 pm on Wednesday. The rescue operation was suspended at 9 pm due to dark conditions and shooting stones, which made the rescue operation difficult.

Till the suspension of the operation, the rescue teams comprising of NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, Central Industrial Security Force, and local police had traced three cars and a tipper.  

The rescue teams were searching from two directions and were using drones too.   

Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

The landslide had hit about 200 meters patch of the National Highway-5 – about 10 kilometres away from Bhavanagar.

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Kinnaur Tragedy: 10 Bodies Recovered, Still No Trace of HRTC Bus, 50-60 Persons Feared to be Missing

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Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

Kinnaur: The rescue operation at the site of the landslide in Nigulsari, Nichar Tehsil of the Kinnaur district, was suspended at 9 pm on Wednesday due to dark conditions and shooting stones, which made the rescue operation difficult. The rescue operation would be resumed on Thursday morning, according to the information provided by the district administration.

So far, 10 dead bodies, including those of five women and a child, had been recovered and 13 injured were rescued and taken to CHC Bhavnagar. Though the exact number was not known, 50-60 persons were feared to be buried and were yet to be traced.  

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 7

Source: ITBP

The rescue teams comprising of state NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, Central Industrial Security Force, and local police had been carrying out the rescue operation aggressively.

The HRTC bus carrying 25-30 passengers and a Bolero SUV were still untraceable. As earth removers removed the rubble, two cars and a truck were traced, but the bus and the SUV weren’t found beneath the rubble. It’s being suspected that rubble and boulders might have pushed the bus and the SUV down the gorge and into the Sutlej River.

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 5

Source: ITBP

The HRTC bus and a utility vehicle (a Bolero) and their passengers have not been found under the debris. They are still untraceable. Both vehicles may have rolled down with the debris,” informed Director, State Disaster Management Force, Sudesh Kumar Mokhta.

The rescue teams were searching from two directions and were using drone too, informed Deputy Commissioner, Kinnaur, Abid Hussain Sadiq.    

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures

Source: ITBP

The landslide had hit about 200 meters patch of the National Highway-5 – about 10 kilometers away from Bhavanagar. The ill-fated bus was reportedly on its way from Reckong Peo to Haridwar in Uttarakhand via Shimla.

Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

Source: ITBP

The survivors included the drivers of the bus, Mahender Pal, who had first informed his higher officials about the landslide, and the conductor, Gulab Singh.

Meanwhile, ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh was announced for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50 thousand for the injured.

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 3

Source: ITBP

The landslide has again stirred a debate over ecological damages to the fragile Himalayan region due to rampant blasting and tunneling for hydropower projects and cutting of hills for the widening of roads in an unscientific manner. As compared to the previous year, landslides and cloudbursts doubled in 2o21.

Earlier, on July 25, a landslide had claimed nine lives after boulders rolling down a hill hit a tourist vehicle on Sangla-Chitkul NH in the Batseri region in Kinnaur district. 

According to the statement given in the Legislative Assembly, the ongoing monsoon session has claimed 212 lives and caused damages worth over Rs. 500 crores. The death tally would rise as the rescue operation would be resumed tomorrow.

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 2

Source: ITBP

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 6 Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 4

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