Koppal: They came, they saw...the floods and devastation... and then had to be airlifted to safety!
This sums up the plight of as many as 365 tourists, including 100 from overseas, who had to be rescued from Virupapura Gadde, popularly known as 'Hippie Island' in the Tungabhadra river in Gangavati taluk of Koppal district close to the world heritage site, Hampi in the last 48 hours. Heavy rains and flash floods had left them stranded on the island for the last three days.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) airlifted the marooned tourists in a MI-17 helicopter and an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, in batches from guest houses and resorts in Virupapura Gadde to the Jindal air strip 30 km away. According to preliminary reports, the rescued include a Swiss, an American, five French and 11 German tourists.
Three choppers — two of the IAF and one of the Navy — were summoned to help them to safety. “The elderly, the sick, children and women were airlifted first,” said P. Sunil Kumar, deputy commissioner of Koppal.
Meanwhile, the DCs of both Ballari and Koppal have asked officials to alert people along the river banks downstream of the reservoir because of the downpour in the Tungabhadra catchment area. Traditional methods such as beating of drums and announcement of alerts have been resorted to at Virupapura Gaddi to make people move to safer places.
"With a massive 2.5-lakh cusecs of water released from Tungabhadra dam since Saturday, the ancient monuments, temple complexes and market places (bazaars) are flooded with the overflowing water breaching the river banks and entered the ruins," said official sources.
Koppal DC Mr Sunil Kumar said he himself had visited the island on Saturday and issued an order asking owners of all hotels and resorts to close down their establishments. “However, the hotels and resorts did not do this with some even convincing the tourists who had arrived for the weekend on Friday, to continue staying at their premises,” said the DC adding that stringent action would be taken against the owners of such establishments.
Virupapura Gadde, located between Hampi and Anegundi, is a most sought after destination for foreign backpackers and young domestic tourists because of its serene ambience. The choppers were also used to airlift four National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel to safety as they were stuck on rocks....