Nearly 14,000 pilgrims were left stranded at various places in Chamoli district after a massive landslide blocked the Rishikesh-Badrinath highway on Friday afternoon. The landslide which occurred in Hathi Parvat near Vishnuprayag, 9 km from Joshimath, left 60 metres of the national highway damaged but there were no reports of injury to pilgrims.
Confirming that the landslide had left large numbers of pilgrims stranded, Tripti Bhatt, superintendent of police (SP) Chamoli, said, “After the landslide at least 1,183 pilgrims were left stranded in Govindghat, 900 at Joshimath and 450 at Pandukeshwar. They have been accommodated in nearby hotels, lodges, gurdwaras and guest houses. Around 11,000 pilgrims were at Badrinath for darshan at the time of the calamity.”
The vehicles on their way back from Badrinath had to return to the shrine while those going to Badrinath from Vishnuprayag were forced to return to Joshimath and Govindghat, where the administration made temporary boarding and lodging arrangements for the pilgrims.
The SP said, “The hotels, ashrams and other establishments near Badrinath can house at least one lakh pilgrims so there is no cause of worry.” Many vehicles at Rishikesh have also been stopped from proceeding until the highway is open to traffic again.
Deepam Seth, inspector general of police (IG) Law and Order, claimed that none of the vehicles remained trapped in the landslide-affected area. Personnel from Border Roads Organization said that the landslide had brought so much debris on the road that normal traffic movement would only be restored by Saturday night.
Colonel Rama Subramanian, BRO commandant, said, “Big boulders rolled down from the mountain with a deafening thud on Friday at 2pm. There is a lot of debris on the road. It seems that it will take at least till Saturday for vehicles to be able to travel on the highway.”