Days after devastation, life of flood-hit victims of Kullu Valley hangs in balance

HAVOC IN THE HILLS-PART – 1| Having lost life and property to Nature’s fury, victims get food and shelter from…

Days after devastation, life of flood-hit victims of Kullu Valley hangs in balance

Parbati's fury has taken its toll, completely destroying the road, houses, petrol pump and a hotel at the right Bank from Bhuntar towards Kasol and Manikaran (Photo: Sushil Pandit/SNS)

HAVOC IN THE HILLS-PART – 1| Having lost life and property to Nature’s fury, victims get food and shelter from neighbours, govt nowhere in sight

For 41-year-old Usha Devi, a resident of Hathithaan, a small village on the bank of the Parbati river near Bhuntar in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, heavy rains and flash floods have changed the course of her family’s life for the worst.

Umita Thakur, whose house was completely damaged in the flood. (Photo: Sushil Pandit/SNS)

She and her family’s fate has been hanging by the thread literally as the multi-storey house, which her family had built after spending all their earnings, is on the verge of collapse due to heavy rains and flash floods. As the rain pounded and the Parbati river swelled, the administration began the evacuation of people. This forced Usha and four of her family members to leave their house for the safety of life. After she saw her cousin’s four shops being swept away just two days back, they took no time to leave the house.

Haplessly looking at the weakening foundation of her house, which somehow stands tilted, almost ready to collapse into the gushing river, she can be seen praying to the rain gods to relent so that they can repair their house.


Barely half a kilometre away, towards Bhuntar bridge, which is the confluence of the Parbati river and Beas, Umita Thakur and her family members are in a state of shock. Their house crumbled and was washed away due to the heavy flooding that the area witnessed two days ago.

“This has been the worst nightmare of our life. We never expected that the monsoon would be so devastating. We built our new house by spending all our life’s savings a few months ago. But now everything is gone,” Umita rues.

Umita along with her family comprising her husband, a toddler son, and in-laws have taken shelter in a nearby house.

A similar tale is that of Sarita Sharma from village Bara Bhuin, Kullu. She says, “I had gone to meet my relatives in a nearby village. When I came back I was shocked to find that my house had disappeared, and in its place there was water all around.”

For Sarita, this is her third grief in three years; she lost her husband to cancer a year ago and before that, her daughter too died of a heart attack.

The devastation is so catastrophic that those affected are not in ones or twos but there is a list of people whose buildings, be it a house, hotel, or a shop, have been washed away, like Baldev Verma, Him Bhanu Bharti, Devinder Sharma, Kansi Ram, Hem Raj Sharma, the list is endless.

Several houses are on the verge of collapse, and habitants are watching haplessly. (Photo: Sushil Pandit/SNS)

“We found no time to evacuate after the announcement that the water level was rising. The road was already broken and it was not possible to take out the belongings and valuables,” said Yogesh Guleria whose house and studio got washed away in the floods.

Usha, Umita, Yogesh, and the like are amongst several other families who till recently lived on the left bank of Parbati river and have been left devastated and displaced by what many old-timers describe as the worst monsoon in many decades in Kullu Valley.

The flash floods and heavy gush of water in Beas that merged with Parbati here have changed the course of the river, which has completely destroyed the road linking old Bhuntar to Jari, Kasol, and Manikaran on the right bank.  Such has been the impact of the river that it has destroyed a hotel, a petrol pump, many shops and houses in one row, leaving a trail of destruction in a stretch of about 500 metres.

No relief announced by the government

While Nature has already played havoc with their lives, what is hurting the residents is that even two days after the tragedy, the government did not announce any relief or compensation for them.

It’s only the villagers who are coming out in big numbers to help the devastated families, says Usha, showing her gratefulness to them. She adds, “In our time of distress, it is so heartwarming that they are giving us food and shelter. As far as the government is concerned, not a single official has come to meet us and assure us that we would be compensated for our loss.”

Aerial survey by Himachal CM, but nothing on the ground

Notably, the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, who carried out an aerial survey of the worst affected areas in Mandi, Kullu, and Sainj areas met some of the residents on Tuesday but fell short of making any announcement for relief or compensation to the residents.

Meanwhile, the authorities say they are still assessing the extent of damage and their immediate priority is to rescue the residents and tourists who have been stranded in the far-flung areas.

According to official figures, in the last three days in Himachal Pradesh, Kullu district included, as many as 31 lives were lost due to landslides and floods which led to over 1,300 roads getting blocked and left 40 major bridges damaged. In Kullu’s Sainj area alone, around 40 shops and 30 houses were washed away earlier this week.

After the arrival of the monsoon on June 24 in the state, around 72 deaths have been reported while about 10 persons have been reported missing across the state.

Over 73 houses have been damaged and properties worth around Rs 761 crore have been damaged throughout Himachal. Overall the loss due to heavy rains is around Rs 4,000 crore, according to a rough estimate by government officials.

CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Wednesday said, “The state government is making all efforts to tackle the situation efficiently and prompt rescue operations have been launched in the affected areas and evacuation is on.”

(Tomorrow: Stranded in the Hills)