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Himachal Pradesh CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu recalls toughest rescue operation during floods and more

A village in Lahaul-Spiti - one of the three coldest deserts in India which receives very little rainfall - was washed away in floods triggered by torrential downpours.
Last Updated : 28 July 2023, 04:02 IST

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Excessive rainfall caused widespread damage in Himachal Pradesh earlier this month. In an exclusive interview with DH's Sumit Pande, the state Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu expresses concern about the impact of climate change that is manifesting itself through extreme weather conditions. A village in Lahaul-Spiti - one of the three coldest deserts in India which receives very little rainfall - was washed away in floods triggered by torrential downpours.

Q. What is the situation now in Himachal Pradesh after the state experienced extensive rainfall?

A. We have experienced extensive damage due to rains and landslides. More than 300 per cent of rainfall was reported in many places. But we were able to evacuate 70,000 tourists, including foreigners, and from southern states like Kerala and Karnataka who were stuck after four days. We restored temporary power and water supply in the two worst affected districts - Kullu and Mandi - in 48 hours. Food was made available free of cost and we evacuated more than 15,000 people from Manali alone as I myself stood there to oversee the operations.

Q. What was the toughest rescue during these floods?

A. We had to rescue people from Chandratal where temperatures hovered less than 10 degrees centigrade. Tourists from Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal were stuck there for four days. Air Force could rescue only seven people in one sortie. So I sent my two ministers to oversee the arrangements. They used three JCBs to clear the 14 km route in 10 hours. A delay of one more day in rescue would have affected the chances of survival of those who were stuck.

Q. Before becoming the CM last year, you have never had any administrative experience in the government though you have been an MLA many times. So how did you manage this operation?

A. I have been associated with the Congress party since my student days. In managing the current crisis, I deputed a thousand personnel from less affected districts. A situation like this couldn’t have been brought under control without taking effective administrative measures by focussing on rescue, evacuation, and restoration of services.

Q. What is the extent of damage caused by the floods?

A. The damage as of now is to the tune of Rs 8,000 crore.

Q. Have you got any monetary support from the Centre?

A. We haven’t yet received any interim relief. The Centre has sent in its team a bit too early. The funds that the Centre is claiming to have given to us is the advance for the disaster management which is generally released in the month of December. However, I’m expecting the central government will help us out in every possible way.

Q. Do you think the extreme weather conditions we are experiencing now are the root cause for such disasters as it happened in Himachal Pradesh this time?

A. Yes, the problem has also emanated from climate change. We had never even heard of heavy rainfall in Lahaul-Spiti, even in that region a village has been washed away in the torrential downpour. And it is also a fact that in some places it is not the river which entered the houses but it happened the other way round that homes were built on the course of the river.

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Published 28 July 2023, 04:02 IST

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