Nature’s fury affects nation; 500 still missing in Leh

People struggled to cope with the aftermath of cloudburst in Leh, and heavy rains and subsequent flooding in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

Updated: Aug 08, 2010, 23:38 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Srinagar: Nature’s fury left life in disarray in several parts of India on Sunday, with people struggling to cope with the aftermath of cloudburst in Leh and heavy rains and subsequent flooding in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

While six persons were killed in heavy overnight rains in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, as many as 10 people have died following floods in Andhra Pradesh’s Godavari district in the past three days.

In Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh, over 500 people, including a Spanish tourist and 20 Army soldiers, were still missing, two days after a cloudburst caused flash floods there, claiming at least 145 lives and causing widespread destruction.

Four Air India flights reached the town today to evacuate stranded passengers, most of them foreigners, while the Indian Air Force sent more planes with relief supplies.

Inspector General of Police (Kashmir zone) Farooq Ahmad said the 111 bodies identified so far do not include any foreigner. The rescue teams have fanned out to six villages near Leh that had not yet been reached during the relief operations.

Over 400 people were injured in the disaster, including a Spanish tourist, and are being treated in a local hospital, he said.

The bodies of four policemen who died in the rescue operations were airlifted to Srinagar, where tributes were paid to them. Their bodies were later sent to their hometown, Kargil, in the Ladakh region.

Ahmed said that medical personnel and relief supplies had begun reaching in strength and special flights have been flying out stranded tourists.

At least 20 soldiers deployed near the base camp of Siachen glacier - the highest battleground of the world at the height of 18,000 feet above sea level - are still missing and are feared dead, Army sources said in Jammu.

The sources said that they feared that the soldiers were dead as there was no trace of life anywhere in the area they were posted in.

The IAF has pressed more aircraft into service to take relief material. Besides Chandigarh and Delhi, relief supplies are being ferried in from Jammu and Udhampur as well, an Army spokesman said.

"IL-76 and AN-32 transport planes took off from Jammu and Udhampur Sunday with relief material and also debris clearing machines like earthmovers and engineering equipment, provided by the Northern Command of the Indian Army," the spokesman said.

Stunned locals are still trying to come to terms with the tragedy that hit Leh, which is popular with Indians and foreigners alike. The floods razed important buildings and washed away homes as people desperately tried to escape.

Survivors clawed through their devastated homes to look for their near and dear ones - some who survived while others were not so lucky.

The shocked tourists promptly made a beeline for the airport to leave the town at the earliest.

Britain Sunday advised its citizens against travelling to Ladakh and asked those in the area to follow "local advice".

"Due to ongoing disruption following floods, we advise against travel to Leh and the surrounding area at the current time," said a travel advisory issued by the British foreign office.

The police have set up tented accommodation for 2,000 victims in Choglamsar village and Leh town where free meals are being served.

In Delhi, NGO Save the Children appealed to the people to contribute relief material like blankets and household utility kits.

"About 5,000 blankets are required immediately to keep people warm, particularly children as homes have been damaged and the weather conditions are poor," said Thomas Chandy, the NGO`s chief executive officer.

"About 5,000 household and hygiene kits are required. Tarpaulins and medical assistance are some of the other critical needs of the victims," he said.

Save the Children is coordinating relief efforts with international NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and local NGOs.

Over 6,000 Army soldiers and troopers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are involved in the massive relief and rescue operation and are assisting the local administration.

Leh is 434 km from Srinagar and 474 km from Manali in Himachal Pradesh, to which it is connected by an alternative highway.

The cloudburst occurred at Choglamsar village, which is situated above Leh town, causing flash floods and mudslides that washed away government offices, paramilitary camps and residential homes.

Ahmedabad rain fury

Meanwhile, six persons, including three children, were killed while rail and air traffic was severely affected after heavy overnight rains lashed Ahmedabad, officials said today.

The city received nearly 35 cms of rainfall since last
night as water logging was reported from various parts including Chandkheda, Ranip and Sabarmati, they said.

Ten trains were cancelled and nine others got delayed as
railway tracks were submerged in flood water.

The top portion of a temple fell on an adjoining house
killing four members of the family on the spot at Dudeshwar
area here in the wee hours today, police said.

In separate incidents, two youths drowned in water logged
underpasses at Akbarnagar and Nirnaynagar areas of the city,
they said.

Operations at the international terminal of the Sardar
Patel Airport here were affected due to water logging
following which electricity supply to the terminal had been
cut-off as a precautionary measure, airport officials said.

International flight operations were shifted to the
domestic terminal, they said, adding the Ahmedabad-Dubai
flight of Emirates was cancelled while several domestic
flights got delayed.

Passengers were seen traversing through knee-deep waters
at the airport.

Godavari floods claim 10 lives

In Andhra Pradesh, as many as 10 people have died
following floods in the Godavari in the past three days even
as water level in the river continued to rise alarmingly,
severely affecting normal life in nine districts, particularly
Khammam and East Godavari districts.

Eight deaths were reported in Warangal district while two
were reported in Adilabad district, a senior official of the
Disaster Management Department said.

Standing crop in over 30,000 hectares was damaged besides
271 cattle deaths were reported following heavy rains and
floods, he said.

Due to incessant rains in catchment areas in Maharashtra,
water level in the Godavari river continued to rise at several
places in Andhra Pradesh resulting in damage to 1,631
irrigation sources and 60 roads, officials said.

As the water level rose in the Godavari at temple town
Bhadrachalam in Khammam district to 59.7 feet, its tributaries
and rivulets overflew in down-stream areas causing damage to
standing crop and properties.

(With IANS/PTI inputs)