Heavy rains and landslides have led to a 15-km traffic jam with no estimated wait time, no available accommodation and 200-odd people, most of them tourists, stranded on the national highway connecting Mandi and Kullu in Himachal Pradesh.
The highway has remained blocked since yesterday following flash floods and landslides triggered by heavy rain in the hill state. According to officials, explosives are being used to blast heavy boulders blocking the road. The road will be open to traffic movement only after seven-eight hours, the officials said, according to a PTI report.
In a development that will worry tourists and their families more, the local weather office has issued an alert for more rain and thunderstorms in Himachal over the next two days.
Flash floods were witnessed in Khotinallah near Aut, about 40 km from Mandi town, on the Pandoh-Kullu stretch due to a heavy downpour and the commuters have been stranded since yesterday evening.
The alternative Mandi-Kullu route via Katola, blocked due to landslide, has been opened after almost 20 hours and small vehicles are now being diverted through this stretch, said the officials of the Mandi administration.
Commuters have been advised not to move towards Mandi until the road is opened, the officials added.
"It is a nightmarish experience as we have been stuck here since yesterday evening. There are limited hotels and other accommodations available nearby," said Mohit, a tourist from Chandigarh.
There are over two km of jam on both the sides even though the police and administration have stopped traffic at several points on the stretch as the road is blocked, he added.
Public Works Department Minister Vikramaditya Singh said as many as 301 roads have been blocked due to heavy rains.
Out of these roads, 180 would be opened by Monday evening, 15 by Tuesday and the remaining by June 30 depending on the weather conditions, Singh told reporters.
As many as 390 JCBs, dozers and tippers have been deployed to clear the roads and the department would release a number on which the people can report road related issues by today evening, he added.
There are about 30 road stretches prone to frequent landslides in the state. So far, during the ongoing monsoon season which started on June 24, the PWD has suffered a loss to the tune of about INR 27 crore.
Yesterday, flash floods triggered by a cloudburst in Solan and Hamirpur districts and heavy rains in Shimla, Mandi and Kullu killed two people, damaged crops, homes and vehicles, and washed away livestock.
The Met Office has issued "orange" warning indicating heavy to very heavy rain, thunderstorm, and lightning at isolated places on June 25 and 26 and "yellow" warning indicating thunderstorm and lightning on June 27 and 28. (with PTI inputs)