Wednesday, August 11: In two weeks after nine tourists were killed in a rockslide, Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district has witnessed another deadly landslide incident on Wednesday. Police said that more than 50 people were feared buried in a major landslide on National Highway 5.
A state roadways bus reportedly carrying more than 40 passengers and several other vehicles were buried in the landslide that occurred over on a larger stretch on the highway near Nigulsari, 61 km from Reckong Peo, the district headquarters of Kinnaur. The Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus was going to Haridwar from Rekong Peo via Shimla. There was no official confirmation about the number of passengers on the bus.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur told reporters in Shimla that he directed the Kinnaur administration to speed up relief and rescue operations. “As per the information available so far, 50-60 people might be trapped there. Sensing the gravity of the situation, the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) has been summoned for rescuing the people,” he said.
Growing number of Himalayan landslides
Landslides and rockslides refer to the downward movement of rocks and debris and are a common occurrence in steep mountain terrains. While numerous causes can trigger a landslide, the most common cause in the Himalayan region is excessive rainfall or rise in the groundwater table, leading to a built-up of shear stress within a slope. Recent research shows that the region is prone to a whopping 15% of the rainfall-induced landslides in the world.
The Himalayas are geologically young mountains with relatively weaker rock structures compared to other mountain ranges in the country. Research suggests that these vulnerable steep slopes are more prone to landslides. The risk is often exacerbated by activities like road construction and widening, infrastructural developments, expansion of human settlements, deforestation and changes in agriculture patterns.
The changes in rainfall patterns due to changing climate also exert substantial pressure on these unstable slopes. A recent study shows that the landslide hazards could change in response to projected variations in rainfall due to climate variability. The recent report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released earlier this week, also asserts with high confidence that in the ‘High Mountain Asia’, rising temperature and precipitation can increase the occurrence of glacial lake outburst floods and landslides.
Over the past few days, isolated heavy rainfall has been recorded in parts of Himachal Pradesh. The state has been put under a yellow watch (meaning ‘be updated’) for the next five days till Sunday, August 15, due to the possibility of persistent heavy rains in isolated areas. Since the beginning of August, the rainfall intensity has subsided in the region and the state have registered a total of 418 mm rainfall since June 1 as against the norm of 483 mm.
(with inputs from IANS)
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