Rescue efforts continue in Leh, 500 still missing

August 9th, 2010 - 3:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, Aug 9 (IANS) After a night’s halt, thousands of rescue workers fanned out across Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh town Monday, three days after after a cloudburst caused flash floods, killing 132 people and causing widespread destruction.
“Out of 132 bodies recovered so far, 128 have been identified,” Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Farooq Ahmad told IANS.

“No foreigner is among the 128 dead identified. While one Spanish national is still missing, another is being treated for injuries in a Leh hospital,” he said.

Over 500 people, including the Spanish tourist and 20 army soldiers, are still missing after the tragedy.

Around 1,200 foreign tourists, who had been stranded in Leh because of the cloudburst, have been evacuated by special flights of Air India and other airliners, Ahmad added.

“Helicopters have been pressed into service today (Monday) to evacuate some foreign tourists who are stranded in Zanskar Valley of Ladakh region,” the officer said.

Over 400 injured people are being treated in makeshift hospitals established in Leh with the help of the army and the local administration.

Four Air India flights reached the town Sunday to evacuate stranded passengers, most of them foreigners, while the Indian Air Force sent more planes with relief supplies.

Special Air India flights are scheduled to Leh to evacuate stranded passengers there Monday as well.

At least 20 soldiers deployed near the base camp of Siachen glacier - the highest battleground of the world at the height of 18,000 feet above sea level - are still missing and are feared dead, army sources said in winter capital Jammu.

The police have set up tented accommodation for 2,000 victims in Choglamsar village and Leh town where free meals are being served.

Over 6,000 army soldiers and troopers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are involved in the massive relief and rescue operation and are assisting the local administration.

Leh is 434 km from Srinagar and 474 km from Manali in Himachal Pradesh, to which it is connected by an alternative highway.

The cloudburst occurred 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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