With the changing weather situation in Himachal Pradesh and forecast of fresh snow spell in the coming days, the Kullu Police has announced the closure of Atal Tunnel. Kullu Police has announced that the vehicular movement will be restricted for the next three days due to the change in weather. The authorities have started shutting down the vehicular movement in the tunnel after several tourists got stuck on the other side after heavy snowfall.
The meteorological department has forecasted that there will be heavy snowfall in the middle to the high ranges of the Himalayas between 3rd to 5th February. During these days, the authorities will not allow any kind of vehicular activities inside the tunnel. Also, there is a danger of avalanches and landslides due to the snowfall, which can trap the tourists.
Earlier this year, authorities closed the tunnel for 24 days starting on January 6th. The tourists were allowed to enter the tunnel on January 30th after the approval from the administration and from the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). Due to the holiday season, a large number of tourists appeared and caused an increased vehicular movement inside the tunnel and surrounding areas. This caused a lot of accidents and massive jams on the approach roads to the tunnel.
Patrol vehicles deployed
The Kullu administration has also deployed patrol vehicles between Solang Valley and South Portal of the tunnel. Any tourist who parks their vehicle on this stretch will have to face fines. It is now a tow-away zone to ensure smooth movement of traffic. Also, there is now a ban on any kind of operation of snow scooters and ATVs beyond the Solang barrier. This will ensure that the tourists do not create unnecessary jams on the approach roads.
The district commissioner has also announced time limits for the tourists. The tourist vehicles going from Solang barrier to the South Portal will ve allowed between 9 am and 11 am and the second window is between 12 noon to 1 pm. The tunnel will also remain shut for periodic maintenance work daily. The vehicles that cross the barrier will have to return by 4 pm from the tunnel.
300 people rescued
Earlier this year, Himachal Police rescued over 300 stranded tourists from the Atal Tunnel after heavy snowfall. The rescue mission was carried out after numerous tourists were stuck due to a sudden weather change. Many people went to the North Portal of the tunnel and could not find any place to stay in Lahaul. Later, a sudden weather change causing heavy snowfall left the tourists stranded on their way back to Solang. About 70 vehicles were rescued during a joint mission that was carried out by the authorities through the night.
Post the rescue mission, the authorities announced that the tunnel will remain closed for any kind of vehicular movement for the next few weeks. Atal Tunnel has attracted a lot of tourists across India. The police and the administration are finding it quite difficult to manage the incoming tourists and has also banned any kind of photography near the tunnel entrance.