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Day 5: Hundreds still missing in Ladakh flash floods

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Srinagar, Aug 10, IRNA -- Hundreds of people remain untraced five days after massive cloudbursts ravaged the picturesque Himalayan region of Kashmir. The missing include scores of foreign tourists.

On Tuesday, officials said rescuers have recovered more bodies overnight and they put the latest death toll at 170 adding estimated 500 people still remain missing.

A leading international charity, active in the region, however said that the toll could climb to over 1000 as several villages surrounding Leh town remained inaccessible and cut off from the rest of the world.

On Monday Indian Air Force choppers rescued 81 foreigners and six tour guides, stranded in Zanskar Valley. The foreigners rescued include 17 British and French nationals, nine people from the Netherlands, eight from Czechoslovakia, seven Germans and four Israelis, according to IAF officials.

200 people, including foreigners, were still stranded in various places in the affected area, officials said.

Two French nationals and a Spaniard were yet to be traced, they said.

In Moscow authorities said the tourists stranded in Ladakh included 26 Russians.

150 of the dead have been identified so far, official sources said, adding the victims include a Romanian woman, 15 Nepalese nationals and two Tibetans.

Meanwhile, 'Save the Children', an International NGO which has an extensive operations in the area today said it fears that the toll could climb to over 1000 going by eye-witness reports with several villages surrounding Leh town remaining inaccessible and cut off from the rest of the world."

Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children, said the NGO was coordinating its relief efforts with international medical humanitarian NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres and local NGOs in Leh.

Chandy said rescue efforts were complicated by the fact that the majority of buildings in Leh were constructed using mud bricks and mud mortar.

Finding bodies beneath the flattened debris was hampered by the muddy slush.

The floods and mudslides around the town of Leh followed days of torrential rainfall.

An official spokesman meanwhile said the Army and civilian authorities were trying hard to remove the piles of mud and slush which had buried villages in the worst-battered Choglusmar belt here as well as to restore telephone links.

The highway which was swept away in flash floods is one of the two road links between the 'cold desert' and other parts of the country.

IRNA reporter in New Delhi said that a fresh cloudburst in Kargil area has cut off many more villages.

Cloudburst triggered flash floods in village Wado causing massive damage, delayed reports said.

The cloudburst flooded Brok Lungba stream as a result of which the water entered Wado village during the night causing extensive damage to standing crops, trees, residential houses, shops and hotels, police said.

The IAF tried to airdrop essential items including tents and clothing in the villages affected by the cloudburst as roads were badly damaged, Tashi Tsetan, Deputy Director with the development wing of the local administration, said.

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