As many as 365 people, including 100 tourists from overseas, were rescued from Veerapur Gaddi near the famous Hampi heritage site in Karnataka, as heavy rains and flash floods left them stranded over the last 2-3 days, an official said on Tuesday.
"The Indian Air Force (IAF) crew airlifted the marooned tourists in MI-17 helicopter and the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, in batches from a guest house near the Virupapura gadde (island) temple at the Hampi heritage site to the Vijayanagar airport between Hospet and Ballari towns in the state's northwest region over the last two days," the official said.
Located on the south bank of the Tunga-Bhadra joint rivers, the Unesco recognised heritage site, dotted with ruins and monuments from the 14th century Vijayanagara empire, including the 7th century Virupaksha temple, was inundated after the authorities released excess water from the nearby dam.
Hampi in the rich-mining district of Ballari is about 340 km northwest of Bengaluru.
"As the 20 km road connectivity to the heritage site from Hospet town was flooded and damaged, the tourists had to be airlifted in turns as they were stranded in a state-run guest house near the temple on an island," said the official.
With the southwest monsoon being active since August 1, heavy rains in the catchment areas of the Tunga and Bhadra rivers in the state's Malnad region filled the reservoir to the brim where the two rivers join near Hospet.
"As 2.5-lakh cusecs of water were released from the TB dam since Saturday, the ancient monuments, temple complexes and the market places (bazars) were flooded when the overflowing water breached the banks and entered the ruins," recalled the official.
The choppers were also used to airlift four National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel to safety as they were stuck on the rocks that were submerged by the swirling waters.
Other historical places at Hampi, including Purndara mantapa (canopy) and Chola mantapa were submerged while Kampli fort and Anjaneyaswamy temple were flooded due to the TB river overflowing.
Hundreds of tourists and pilgrims were also rescued by the state and national disaster response forces from flood-hit Pattadakal in the neighbouring Bagalkot district, which has an another Unesco recognised world heritage site for its 7th-8th century Hindu and Jain temples and monuments.
State Tourism Secretary, T.K. Sunil Kumar, however, clarified that there was no damage to the monuments and temples at both the heritage sites due to inundation by the rain water or flooding due to overflowing of the river water.
"Measures have been taken to clear the water from the heritage sites by pumping it from the complexes and making ways for reversing the flow back to the river or diverting it in open areas or fields," Kumar told reporters here.
Pattadakal, about 440 km northwest of the state capital (Bengaluru) is one of the prime tourist and religious destinations in the southern state. "Pattadakal is a harmonious blend of architectural forms from the northern and southern India and an illustration of eclectic art. The Hindu temples are dedicated to Shiva, with elements of Vaishnavism and Shaktism fused," said Unesco for declaring it a world heritage site.