Leh toll 167, five foreigners among dead (Second Lead)

August 10th, 2010 - 11:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 10 (IANS) The toll in the devastating flash floods caused by the sudden cloudburst in Leh town in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region went up Tuesday to 167, including five foreigners, while around 200 people were still missing, officials said.
More than 150 foreign tourists trapped in Leh were relocated to safer places Tuesday as the Indian Army intensified its rescue and relief operations, officials said.

The army has also requested its Pakistani counterpart to help in locating 28 soldiers who are missing after the tragedy and might have slipped across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries.

Kashmir zone Inspector General of Police Farooq Ahmad told IANS: “We have recovered 167 bodies so far, 140 of whom have been identified.”

Five foreigners - two Frenchmen, one Spanish, one Italian and one Romanian - are feared dead, Ahmad said, citing the tour operators who were with these tourists when the disaster struck.

“Around 200 people were still missing while the relief and rescue operations continue in Leh town and 12 villages adjacent to it. About 400 injured are being treated in different makeshift hospitals in Leh town,” he said.

Army columns moved into some of the worst affected areas by trekking for miles through mud and debris. “This was a task the army has performed with extreme urgency and efficiency since Aug 5-6 when the flash floods swept away villages and flattened houses in Leh,” an army officer told IANS.

“Several army columns have been deployed in Ladakh for relief operations. The tourists stranded at various locations have been relocated to safer locations and provided with the required medicare, food and shelter,” Lt Col J.S. Brar, the officiating spokesperson of the Northern Command of the Indian Army, said in a statement.

“The army aviation helicopters have also been pressed into the evacuation of critically ill tourists from various locations in Ladakh for treatment to the Army Hospital in Leh,” he said.

He said 151 foreign tourists of different nationalities were stuck at Lamayuru, a tourist attraction in Leh district, known for its Buddhist monasteries and monks.

The army has provided the required relief to them, he said.

The villages of Skyurbuchan, Baldes and Katchathang in Khalsi block of Leh district, too, have been affected by the unprecedented rainfall in the region.

Army is providing relief to them and camps have been established for the purpose .

Traffic on both the highways connecting Leh to Manali and Srinagar remains suspended. The process of clearing the highways and restoration of bridges is underway and a 222-km stretch from Manali to Sarchu has been made motorable.

Leh is 434 km from Srinagar and 474 km from Manali.

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

Among the worst hit are the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR), many local hotels and shops.

The headquarters of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), a government polytechnic, an ITBP camp, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp, some government offices and the main transmitter of All India Radio Leh have been extensively damaged.

Situated at 3,524 m above sea level, Leh is spread over 45,110 sq km comprising the main town and 12 adjacent villages.

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