Himachal Pradesh Police rescue over 300 stranded tourists at Atal Tunnel

Himachal Pradesh police swung into action after more than 300 people got stranded at Atal Tunnel due to have snowfall. The rescue mission was launched after fresh snowfall on Sunday and sudden change of the weather.

Kullu SP, Gaurav Singh said that a few tourists crossed the tunnel on Saturday but in the evening, they could not find any place to stay in Lahaul. As the weather suddenly changed, the tourists got stranded on their way back to Manali. The Lahaul-Spiti police then coordinated with the Kullu Police and sent vehicles through the tunnel in the evening to rescue the stranded tourists.

According to the information, the vehicles lost traction due to the snowfall and slippery surface. The police and authorities said that they deployed at least 70 vehicles for the rescue mission. There were a 48-seater bus, a 24-seater police bus and a one police quick reaction team or QRT. The DSP and SHO of Manali city were also involved in the rescue operation and later, the Border Roads Organisation or BRO who made the tunnel also joined the operations.

The last tourist rescued from Dhundhi and South Portal of the tunnel was at 12:33 AM. Later, a team led by Manali SHO checked the whole route to look for stranded tourists on the way.

It is likely that the authorities and the police will restrict the access to the tunnel citing heavy snowfall in the next few days. As per predictions made by the Meteorological Department, the snowfall is expected in the coming days. The Met department has also issued a yellow weather warning for heavy snowfall on Tuesday. The forecast rain and snowfall in mid and high hills of the state from January 3 to 5 and on January 8.

Additional 82 tourists were rescued the following day. These tourists were also stranded near the South Portal of the Atal Tunnel near Dhundhi. It is not known if the tourists’ vehicles are still allowed to pass through to the other side due to the weather condition at moment.

Automatic number-plate recognition system used (ANPR)

The authorities have started using automatic number-plate recognition near the tunnel. The system uses optical character recognition of images to carefully read the registration plates and to create vehicle location data. Two ANPR systems are already installed near the tunnel. It is currently used to keep a tab on the movement of the vehicles on the highway and keep a count.

The exact location of the automatic systems is near Raja Ghepan temple in Lahaul-Spiti. It is first of its kind system installed in the region. The system is overlooking the NH3.

“Automatic number-plate recognition (ANPR) is a technology that uses optical character recognition of images to read registration plates to create vehicle location data. It can use existing closed-circuit television, road-rule enforcement cameras or cameras specifically designed for the task. The ANPR is used by police forces around the world for law enforcement purposes, including checking if a vehicle is registered or licensed. It is also used for electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads and as a method of cataloguing the movements of traffic by highways agencies,”.

The new system will add a safer security perimeter to the region and will help the authorities to monitor traffic.