Leh flash floods: Relief and rescue work on war footing

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 scene in Choglamsar village on the outskirts of Leh town - flattened houses and buried vehicles - looks like it's straight out of a disaster movie. But on this road leading to Manali, this is the real life.

No one in the village knows how many villagers have died or gone missing. At least 115 people have already been killed.

"My brother and his son were buried in this rubble. I survived because I was away," said Dorjee Wangchuk, a local of Leh.

Hundreds of injured people are in hospitals. There are fears that the number of dead could climb, as efforts continue to pull out people trapped under the debris.

Army jawans are trying to extricate bodies along with villagers. Their engineers and Border Road Organisation (BRO) workers are busy rigging up a temporary link to restore at least a one-lane road.

"Our first priority was to save lives, then to restore the road communication. The entire road has been washed away within shortest possible time. We should be able to open this axis by tomorrow evening," said Brigadier SK Wadhwan, Chief Engineer, Project Himank, BRO.

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 priority right now is to find the 400-odd people declared missing.

As the villagers try to reach their homes across the cut off road, rescue workers are racing against time to fill the breach in the road made by the gushing water from the top of the mountains.

The worst affected is Leh town, especially old Leh.

The Army has suffered losses in the Turtuk area, and villages near the Chang La pass have also been washed away.

Communication lines are still down, and the Sringar-Leh highway is still blocked, but the Army and the Air Force have managed to completely clean up the mud and slush from the runway. As a result of that, both commercial and military flights are landing in Leh.

"We feel that the communication thing is most important, because as you know Leh is totally cut off at present. So first thing we will improve the communication. The second thing we will do is try and find the missing persons, were we have put the sniffer dogs and other things," said Brigadier S N Bhaduri.

A statement released late Friday night by the Ministry of External Affairs says some foreign nationals have also been affected in the flash floods, but their identities or nationalities are still to be established.

There are several foreign nationals among those rescued. At least 100 Indian nationals and foreigners are stranded at Spang on the Manali - Leh route.

A three-member Central team comprising Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Prithviraj Chavan also visited the area. (Read: 3 member Central team visits Ladakh)

Leh disaster - what's being done:

  • Five Air Force planes, three AN-32, and two IL-76 aircrafts carrying relief material, medicines and a medical team have reached Leh.
  • 1200 Armymen are working round the clock to remove the rubble and are searching for people trapped under the rubble.
  • Four rehabilitation centres have been set up. Over 1000 people are being fed and sheltered at these centres.

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



(Read: What is a cloudburst?)
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