Leh: At least 115 people have been killed and hundreds are still missing, among them are 31 jawans, after flash floods hit Leh in Ladakh. Reports said a number of people were killed and many injured in a massive cloudburst on Thursday night. (See pictures)
"We were sitting inside when we got to know about the floods. We came outside and saw the entire area flooded," said a resident of Leh.
The flash floods, caused by a cloudburst, have transformed the picturesque landscape of Leh into a virtual disaster zone with buildings, houses and schools completely destroyed.
The cloudburst triggered torrential rains, mudslides and flash floods. A number of homes were completely destroyed and over 500 injured people were taken to Army hospital where floods destroyed entire wards.
A three-member Central team comprising Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Prithviraj Chavan is visiting the area. Five Air Force planes carrying relief materials have also reached the flood hit region.
The Central relief team is carrying out rescue operations in the area. Four rehabilitation centres have been set up so far and more than 1000 people are being fed and given shelter.
Earlier, the Army and the paramilitary launched a massive operation to rescue people who were missing. Slush, gushing water and debris were a big challenge for the rescue workers.
1200 Armymen are working round the clock to remove the rubble and search for people trapped under the rubble.
"We walked two kilometers and then I climbed a mountain. I had 14 more people with me," said an Army jawan.
Several homes were completely destroyed and the infrastructure badly hit in an area that is remote and normally difficult to reach.
A number of government offices, and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police camp were damaged. To make it worse, communication lines snapped. Telephone towers and highways leading to the region were also affected. The Leh-Srinagar highway is blocked.
It took the Army and Air Force several hours to clear the Leh airport, where parts of the runway were covered in six inch slush.
Also, a statement released late last night by the Ministry of External Affairs said some foreign nationals too have been affected in the flash floods. However, their identities or nationalities were still to be established. There are several foreign nationals among those rescued.
Leh District Collector Angchok has confirmed that one foreigner's body has been found. His nationality has not yet been determined.
At least 100 Indian nationals and foreigners are stranded at Spang on Manali-Leh route.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also flew to Leh after a meeting in Srinagar. (Watch: Omar visits hospital, meets victims)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed grief over the loss of life and property in the flash floods in Leh and announced an ex-gratia relief of one lakh each to the kin of the deceased and 50,000 each to the seriously injured.
"The Prime Minister is grieved to learn about the loss of life and property in the flash floods which hit Leh after a cloud burst" last night, a PMO statement said.
Control rooms have been set up to monitor the flow of information.
Control Room Numbers:
9906990613, 9906990833, 9906990807, 9906983544, 9906990748, 9906990835, 990699078
Satellite Phone Number:
00870 7636 13623
As efforts continue to pull out people trapped under the debris, there are fears that casualties may rise.