Manikaran (HP): At least ten persons were killed and many others injured when a building adjoining the historic Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara caved in due to a massive landslide on Tuesday afternoon.
Kullu Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar confirmed that eight bodies which were buried under huge boulders have been extricated while search is on for more.
Eyewitnesses claimed that the dead could be more than ten in number as a large number of people had taken shelter in the building, close to the Gurdwara, when the tragedy struck.
The damaged building of the famous Sikh shrine Gurdwara Manikaran Sahib is pictured at Manikaran, in the Kullu District of northern Himachal Pradesh state on Tuesday. Pic/AFP
The exact number of dead or injured could not be ascertained as some bodies are feared to be buried under the debris.
The district administration has sought the assistance of Gurdwara authorities in locating and identifying the bodies as most people staying in the building were outsiders.
People ran helter-skelter as boulders fell on the building and many were trapped as a huge portion of the three-storey building virtually collapsed.
The locals and Gurdwara management immediately swung into action and started rescue operations while Additional District Magistrate, Sub Divisional Magistrate, Kullu and other district officials rushed to the spot. Those injured have been admitted to zonal hospital at Kullu and condition of seven of them is stated to be serious.
DGP Sanjay Kumar said some of the ten injured and were in a critical condition.
"We have deputed police force led by the district SP. They are engaged in swift rescue operation", he said.
"The boulder, which slipped from a top of the mountain, has smashed a rear portion of the Gurudawara damaging a few floors," he said.
DC Kullu Rakesh Kanwar said those who had minor injuries were treated on the spot and their condition was fine and added that the exact number of dead would be known after verification.
The DC said the building was an encroachment and would be evacuated soon.
"It has be evacuated and not to be occupied in the coming days, so that its structural strength and other things are checked before it is exposed to other use. Maybe it will be dismantled altogether but that is a call that has be taken later," Kanwar said.
"The building is a total encroachment. It is not an authorised, legal structure and we have already issued notices to forest authorities, to take action against them, so it is a violation," the DC further said.
Superintendent of Police (SP) Kullu, Surinder Verma said the entire area has been cordoned off fearing more rock falls.
Meanwhile, a team of ITBP personnel from the force's 2nd battalion based in Kullu district has been rushed to the spot. "The team has about 30 mountain-trained personnel including a doctor. They will assist locals and the administration in relief and rescue operations at the landslide spot," a senior Indo-Tibetan Border Police official said.