500 feared Killed in Ladakh flash floods
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
Srinagar, India, Aug 7, IRNA -- More than five hundred people are feared to have died in flash floods triggered by massive cloudbursts that devastated Ladakh region’s main town and surrounding areas late Thursday night.
A massive cloudburst struck Leh, key city of the Kashmir's Ladakh region, some 400 Kms east of of here, around midnight Thursday following torrential rains that triggered flash floods and mudslides. Another cloudburst hit Choglamsar area, 13 kms further east of the town.
Meteorological Department described it a “disastrous weather event” in which “rate of rainfall may be of the order of 100mm per hour.
Official sources told IRNA that the death toll could cross over 500 as several far flung villages were yet to be accessed by rescue teams.
Many peripheral areas like Sabu, Phyang, Nimoo and Choglamsar were badly affected.
Aamir Ali, Coordinator Disaster Management Kashmir, told IRNA that the death toll by Friday evening had reached 112 with the recovery of more bodies and more than 400 injured were being treated in army hospitals as the main hospital in the town was also damaged in the floods.
Hundreds of people remain missing. Ali however said rescue operation had to be suspended for the night due to darkness and bad weather and resumed only early Saturday.
Flash floods had swept away mud houses along with their sleeping inmates, washed away bridges and snapped road and telecommunication links making it difficult for rescuers to reach the affected areas.
Ali said the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is being flown to Leh today to assist the District Administration in rescue operations.
Nearly 150 of power house labourers camping along the Indus river in Shyong village were reported missing. Officials fear that many huts would have been washed away in the flash floods.
Hundreds of people were reported missing from the Chougham Sar where the cloudburst struck at around 2 a.m.
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.
Authorities said that the Army had suffered losses in Turtuk area.
More than 40 Indian Army soldiers were among the missing as their camp, located near a riverbed, was swept away. Their were unconfirmed reports of army casualties on Siachen glacier, also known as worlds highest battlefield.
Many tourists are also feared to have perished in the calamity.
Ladakh, is a popular destination for Western tourists, particularly hikers, mountaineers and adventure sports enthusiasts. August is peak season with thousands flocking to the area.
Army which was playing a key role in the rescue effort said it has rescued at least 100 foreign tourists, mostly Europeans, from Pang, a village about 120 kilometers northeast of Leh town
Army spokesman Lt. Col. J.S. Brar however said no tourist deaths have so far been reported.
An official of the State Tourism Department told IRNA that around 5,000 tourists, many among them foreigners, were in the area at the time of the incident.
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs said in an statement late last night, that some foreign nationals have been affected in the flash floods in Ladakh, The statement however said that the identify of the victims was not yet known.
Six thousand soldiers were involved in the rescue operation, Brar said adding Indian Air Force too was involved in the rescue mission.
Strategically located Ladakh has a large presence of the Indian army and is connected to outside world with a difficult mountain road which remains inaccessible as number of bridges along it have been washed away.
The area is a high-altitude desert about 11,500 feet (3,500 meters) above sea level as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, denying entry to monsoon clouds.
Recent flooding in the region has been attributed to abnormal rain patterns.
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