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 a large numbers of pilgrims stranded, Tripti Bhatt, superintendent of police (SP) Chamoli, told TOI, “After the landslide, at least 1,183 pilgrims were stopped in Govindghat, 900 at Joshimath and 450 at Pandukeshwar from moving ahead. 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.”
While District Magistrate Ashish Joshi said that a total of 1,800 pilgrims got stuck on both sides of a 75-meter wide slide and arrangements have been made for their stay and food, adding that, “yatra has not been halted as reported by certain sections of the media.”
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 and pilgrims 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.”
The BRO has pressed earthmovers into service to clear the debris, said Colonel P H Sharma, spokesperson of the BRO.
Meanwhile, Garhwal commissioner Vinod Sharma has also left for Chamoli to take stock of the situation while disaster management secretary Amit Negi is monitoring the situation from Dehradun.