2k tourists rescued from Atal Tunnel | India News


MANALI: Hundreds of tourist vehicles carrying over 2,000 tourists that were stranded at the Atal Tunnel following snowfall were rescued in late night operations on Thursday that lasted eight hours, from 5pm to 1am. Atal Tunnel, named after former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is a highway tunnel built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on Leh-Manali Highway in Himachal Pradesh.
A large number of tourist vehicles were stranded at both south and north portals of the tunnel following snowfall, which made the road slippery on Thursday afternoon. While vehicles from the north side were sent towards the south side, they started skidding on the steep road between the tunnel and Dhundi nullah, causing a long traffic jam. The vehicles eventually got stuck. Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti police helped the tourists and their drivers in getting their vehicles to safer places. The last vehicle was sent towards Solang valley at about 1am.
As many as 5,640 vehicles carrying tourists had entered Lahaul valley from Manali via Atal Tunnel on Thursday to see snowfall. As the snow started accumulating on the road surface, vehicles started skidding and it became very difficult to drive by late evening. While some people, mostly local taxi drivers, managed to negotiate through the steep curves between the tunnel and Dhundi nullah, hundreds of other vehicles got stuck.
Although the administration stopped traffic towards the tunnel, it was already too late. Lahaul-Spiti police started sending vehicles from Lahaul towards Manali. However, they could not move ahead due to traffic congestion at the south portal of the tunnel where cops were allowing vehicles to move ahead one by one to prevent them from colliding with each other.
At 8.45pm, Lahaul-Spiti SP Manav Verma informed: “Nearly 100 vehicles that had stranded at the north portal of the tunnel due to snowfall and traffic congestion at the south one have been sent towards the south portal. SHO Keylong is monitoring traffic. The tourists are also being guided about how to drive on snow.” Manali SDM Surender Thakur said nearly 250 vehicles were stuck between the tunnel and Dhundi nullah by 9pm. “Nearly 40 four-wheel-drive vehicles from Manali were sent towards the tunnel for help,” he said.
On Friday morning, the SP said that the Manali-Atal Tunnel-Keylong highway is covered with a thick layer of snow and the road is blocked completely for all vehicles.


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