At least 29 people have been killed, while dozens are feared trapped or missing due to landslides triggered by torrential rains in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh.
A Hindu temple in Shimla collapsed killing at least nine people and another seven were found dead following a cloudburst in Solan district.
Television footage and videos on social media showed houses flattened by landslide, buses and cars hanging on the edge of precipices after roads gave way, and hundreds of people at rescue sites as emergency workers struggled to clear the debris.
Disturbing visuals have emerged from Sambhal, Pandoh – District Mandi, where, as reported, seven individuals have been swept away by flash floods today.
Active rescue, search, and relief operations are currently in progress to address this dreadful situation. pic.twitter.com/OLgZGgXNlF
— Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu (@SukhuSukhvinder) August 14, 2023
“Again, tragedy has befallen Himachal Pradesh, with continuous rainfall over the past 48 hours,” the state’s chief minister, Sukhvinder Singh, said in a post on the messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Reports of cloudbursts and landslides have emerged from various parts of the state resulting in loss of precious lives and property,” the chief minister added while urging people to stay inside their houses and away from rivers and landslide-prone areas.
Schools and other educational institutes were ordered to close on Monday and people in danger were being moved to safety in shelters, state officials said.
Parts of the state had received as much as 273mm of rain in 24 hours, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
The state is predicted to experience heavy to very heavy rainfall reaching extremely heavy levels on Monday, according to the IMD forecast.
It had issued a red alert over the weekend for intense downpours in neighboring Uttarakhand state, where 60 people have died in monsoon rains this season. A defence college building has collapsed in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun region.
Thoughts and prayers with people of Himachal and Uttarakhand: a building collapse at the Doon Defence College following incessant rain was captured on cam. Fortunately no one was reported in the building at the time. Landslides in Himachal have claimed 17 lives already. Prayers… pic.twitter.com/6ThBKMs4Dn
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) August 14, 2023
“This is the first time we’re seeing multiple cloudburst incidents and widespread damage in the state,” said state disaster management official Praveen Bhardwaj. A mother and her child were killed in the Mandi district when their house collapsed, he added.
Cloudbursts are a common occurrence in Himalayan regions, however, there have been concerns with the increase in frequency due to extreme weather-related events in the area.
They occur when more than 10 centimeters of rainfall occurs within 10 square kilometers within an hour. They have the potential to cause intense flooding and landslides and can affect thousands of people in India’s mountainous regions.
The situation in Shimla right now is unstable, do not travel to Himachal this time
Kindly spread this message pic.twitter.com/drvKjxqnKT
— Go Himachal (@GoHimachal_) August 14, 2023
In the Mandi district, rescue operations were ongoing after flash floods swept away seven people, the chief minister said.
More than 750 inundated roads, including national highways, were closed in the state due to multiple landslides and flash floods, authorities said.
Locals took to social media to raise alarm over the situation while sharing details of the devastation across the state with a population of 7.1 million.
“Since the cloudburst occurred this morning, the sight of dead body vans, incessant grief in the hearts and eyes of people I’ve known since decades and innocent beings standing in hope for their loved ones to come out safely from under the debris is heartbreaking,” wrote Akriti Mattu.
Since the cloudburst occurred this morning, the sight of dead body vans, incessant grief in the hearts and eyes of people I've known since decades and innocent beings standing in hope for their loved ones to come out safely from under the debris is heartbreaking.
— Akriti Mattu (@chuckles_01) August 14, 2023
“The situation in Himachal is getting worse. There is no electricity or power in many areas,” said journalist Srishti Jaswal.
The situation in Himachal is getting worse. There is no electricity or power in many areas. My mom just called me and said – I should not panic in case something happens to them.
The lower areas are flooding while hills are collapsing due to landslides. No one is safe.
— Srishti (@seekingsrishti) August 14, 2023
In July, record monsoon showers killed more than 100 people over two weeks in parts of northern India, including Himachal Pradesh, which was one of the worst-hit states.
Last year, flash floods killed nearly 200 people and washed away houses in Uttarakhand.