At least five people, including three labourers from Nepal, were killed and two others injured as incessant rains lashed in Uttarakhand on Monday. The labourers were staying in a tent at Samkhal near Lansdowne in Pauri district when rubble flowing down from a field above due to the rains buried them alive, District Magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande said.
They had been engaged in a hotel construction work in the area. The injured were admitted to the Kotdwar base hospital, he said.
The state authorities advised Chardham pilgrims not to proceed to the Himalayan temples till the weather improves. Chardham pilgrims who arrived in Haridwar and Rishikesh by Sunday have been asked not to proceed further till the weather improves, while operation of vehicles for the Himalayan temples has been suspended temporarily.
Passenger vehicles are not being allowed to cross the Chandrabhaga bridge, Tapovan, Lakshman Jhoola and Muni-ki-Reti Bhadrakali barriers in Rishikesh.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited the state disaster control room at the secretariat here to take weather updates and know the conditions of roads and highways.
He appealed to the pilgrims to defer their journey for two days until the weather normalises. They are staying in safe locations spread across Haridwar, Rishikesh, Shrinagar, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Guptkashi, Ukhimath, Karnaprayag, Joshimath and Pandukeshwar.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Dhami on the phone to get an update on precautionary steps being taken by the state government in view of the heavy rain alert and assured him of all possible help.
It has been raining in Kedarnath since Sunday night but the Mandakini river is flowing at its normal level. A Devasthanam Board official said regular prayers at the four Himalayan temples are continuing and pilgrims staying there are safe.
Pilgrims headed for Yamunotri have been asked to stay in Badkot and Jankichatti, whereas those en route to Gangotri have been asked to stay in Harsil, Bhatwari and Maneri, Uttarkashi District Magistrate Mayur Dikshit told PTI.
Kedarnath and Badrinath-bound pilgrims have also been requested not to proceed on their journey till the weather clears. Most of the pilgrims on way to Badrinath are staying in Joshimath and Chamoli, Chamoli district disaster management officer N K Joshi said.
Around 4,000 yatris out of a total of 6,000 in Kedarnath on Sunday have returned while the rest are lodged in safe locations.
Many of them have been stopped in Linchauli and Bhimbali as a precautionary measure, Rudraprayag disaster management officer N S Singh said.
The Chardham Devasthanam Board said the yatra has been temporarily halted for the sake of safety of pilgrims in view of the heavy rain alert issued by the Uttarakhand meteorological department for October 17-19.
The peaks beyond Badrinath and Kedarnath received light snowfall, whereas the lower areas in Chamoli district were lashed by continuous showers. Rain continued in Uttarkashi and Dehradun as well.
Dhami has asked the district administrations to provide hourly updates on the weather and the condition of roads. He also asked them to keep a minimum response time in case of a disaster.
Most educational institutions across Uttarakhand remained closed on Monday, while a ban was imposed on trekking, mountaineering and camping activities in the high altitude areas of the state, including the Nanda Devi biosphere reserve and various forest divisions, till Tuesday as a precautionary measure.
The district-level Khel Mahakumbh events to be held at parade and pavilion grounds in Dehradun on October 18-19 have been cancelled. They have now been rescheduled for October 24 and 25.
Heavy to very heavy rains, lightning, hail storms and high speed winds (60-70 kmph) have been predicted by the Met department for all 13 districts of Uttarakhand between October 17 and 19.
(with PTI inputs)