Shimla: Rescuers on Monday started the second day of their search operation in Himachal Pradesh's Mandi district where a massive mudslide swallowed a 150m stretch of road burying homes, two buses and vehicles and leaving 46 dead.
The authorities are suspecting one or two more persons might be trapped in the mud pile that spread over 300 m area. "This morning we started operation to locate the missing and to retrieve bodies," Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kadam, who is supervising the operation, told IANS over phone. "Since the weather is clear, we are expecting to complete the search operation by this evening," a rescuer said. A mudslide triggered late on Saturday night by heavy rains has killed at least 46 people and injuring five. All bodies have been identified and would be handed over to their family members after post-mortem on Monday, an official said. He said most of the victims belong to Himachal Pradesh. Some of them were from Jammu and Kashmir. One bus that was caught in the mudslide was headed to Manali from Chamba, while the second bus was bound for Katra in Jammu from Manali. The search and rescue operation, which was stopped on Sunday night owing to landslide threat, was mounted by local authorities, the Army and the National Disaster Response Force. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who visited the spot along with his cabinet colleagues on Sunday, announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of those killed. Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal also visited the spot. Describing the development "an unprecedented tragedy", the Chief Minister said the rescue operation would continue until the last body of the victims was recovered. He directed the civil authorities to assess the loss to the property at the earliest so that the sufferers could be adequately compensated. IANS