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At least 132 dead, 600 missing in Leh cloudbursts

Six IAF planes landed Saturday in devastated Leh to carry out rescue and relief operations while the death toll rises to 132.



New Delhi/Leh: Twenty bodies were on Saturday pulled out
from slush and debris in Leh town ravaged by flash floods,
raising the toll to 132 even as rescuers intensified
operations in the high altitude terrain to search for 600
missing people.

Six Indian Air Force aircraft carrying relief
material, rescue workers and doctors landed here today to
provide succour to the people of the region affected by
Thursday night`s cloudbursts and freak rains.

"We have recovered 132 bodies so far and at least 370
are injured. The number of missing is being ascertained,"
State Police Chief Kuldeep Khoda said, adding the toll may go
up.

Sources fear that the death toll could cross over 500
as several remote villages were yet to be accessed by rescue
teams. Thousands were left homeless.

A small village before Choglumsur, which bore the
brunt of the incessant rains, was completely wiped out as
rescue workers were looking for survivors in the mud slush and
debris.

Gushing waters flattened houses, tossed cars and buses
leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. People hit by
the flash floods were still coming to grips with the
catastrophe.

Rescuers waded through knee-deep mud to extricate
people trapped under debris of collapsed buildings.

Relief material, including blankets, dry food
material, medicine and other immediate requirements of the
affected people landed here, a defence spokesman said.

A contractor told senior state administration
officials that 150 labourers employed by him were missing from
Shyong village where he had lodged them. The colony was set up
along Indus river and the officials feared that many huts
would have been washed away in the flash floods.

"The Indo Tibetan Border Police has retrieved 30 dead
bodies. We have rescued 100 victims from under the debris
today. Three relief camps have also been opened up since
yesterday," ITBP spokesperson Deepak Pandey said.

The General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF) and ITBP
are plugging the breaches on Leh Highway, he said.

The Army has been asked to give an account of local
and outstation labourers.

Authorities said that the Army had suffered losses in
Turtuk area. Some of the villages along the Chang La pass,
world`s second highest motorable road, were also believed to
have been washed away in the torrential rains.

Union Minister Farooq Abdullah reached the area this
morning from Kashmir. Later two of his cabinet colleagues --
Ghulam Nabi Azad and Prithviraj Chavan -- also reached here
after making an earlier unsuccessful attempt to land.

Home Secretary G K Pillai said in New Delhi that five
to six civilian flights are likely to take off for Leh
tomoorrow to bring back people including foreign tourists
stranded there.

Satellite telecom equipment is being flown here to
restore the mobile and telephone connectivity in the city and
adjoining areas, where communication services have snapped.

"The Tri-service Disaster Management Coordination Group
today decided to send special service aircraft to carry 19
VSATs (Very Small Aperture Terminals) and other equipment of
BSNL to Leh so that mobile and telecom connectivity could be
restored there," a Defence Ministry official said .

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had yesterday visited the
affected areas and made an on-the-spot assessment of the
situation.

Army spokesman Colonel J S Brar told PTI that rescue
operations which had slowed down due to heavy rains have
picked up again.

"Among the injured, 300 have been treated...The other
injured are treated in army hospital. The 31 Army jawans
missing haven`t still been located. We found a body," he said.

Labourers from Chhatisgarh working mainly in projects
of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and various other
infrastructure development programmes are among the survivors.

"Of the over 400 injured survivors admitted to the
Army General Hospital here for treatment, around 70 are from
Chhattisgarh," Army officials said.

Three JCOs and 30 other ranks of the 15th Battalion of
the Bihar Regiment are also still missing and operations were
on to trace them.

The defence spokesman said adequate number of aircraft
and helicopters were available at Kargil, Chandigarh and
Udhampur to move to Leh.

Air Force has opened a disaster management cell at
Chandigarh, comprising three senior officers including
medical officers.

DRDO scientist and Disaster response team member W
Selvamurthy said, "After the cloudburst last night, there were
heavy rains and water in large quantities flooded low-lying
areas of the city. On our way to the DRDO lab in the area, we
could see the devastation.

"This is a very unusual phenomenon in this area
because Ladakh is a barren desert. It hardly rains here and
five years ago, there was a similar incident on a very small
scale," he said.

"The number of natural disasters have increased in the
recent past and this could also be attributed to global
warming and climate change. One of the DRDO labs is studying
the impact of global warming on high altitude areas," he
added.

Two teams from Health and Family Welfare Ministry
comprising specialist doctors and surgeons from Delhi also
flew in here.

IAF has agreed to carry bodies of foreign tourists and
non-locals to Delhi by air.

The Chief Controller (Research and Development) DRDO,
W Selvamurthy, along with a team of experts also arrived here.

Air Force has opened a disaster management cell at
Chandigarh, consisting of three senior officers including
medical officers.

PTI

From Zee News

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