SRINAGAR: The Army said on Friday it has rescued 168 civilians, including foreign tourists, caught in highly inclement weather on the Leh-Manali highway.
Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said: "168 civilians, including 31 Bhutanese, 38 Nepalese nationals and rest Indian tourists, have been evacuated from Bharatpur to Sarchu and provided medical aid, shelter, warm clothing and hot meals.
"In addition, 22 others including two Australian nationals present near Sarchu were rescued and provided medical aid."
A vehicle-cum-foot patrol launched from Patsio to Suraj Tal evacuated 95 civilians and brought them to Patsio. They have been provided immediate medical aid, shelter and warm clothing, he said.
A large number of landslides and snowslides have trapped vehicles along the strategic Leh-Manali axis over the past one week.
According to Kalia, the effect has been more pronounced near Baralacha La and along the road from Killing-Sarai to Bharatpur.
"The Army detachments operating from Rumtse, Pang, Sarchu, Patsio and Tandi have offered spontaneous help to people stuck at different places providing high-altitude warm clothing, shelter, hot meals, medical aid, satellite communication and carrying out physical rescue missions.
"A highly specialised and trained Avalanche Panther Rescue Team of Ladakh Scouts has been inducted into the affected area for rescue and relief operations," the Defence Ministry spokesman said.
"The second Avalanche Rescue Team is also being inducted shortly. One Medical Officer and one Signals Officer have been inducted to Patsio for providing medical assistance and communication arrangements to the stranded civilians."
Besides, medical stores, oxygen cylinders, supplies and rations have been airlifted by Army Aviation into the affected areas, he added.