Rains hamper rescue operations in Leh, 25 army men among missing

August 7th, 2010 - 12:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil Srinagar, Aug 7 (IANS) Heavy rains and bad weather Saturday morning forced authorities to suspend rescue and relief work in Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh town where at least 115 people were killed and over 300 injured in massive flash floods triggered by a cloudburst.
So far, 115 dead bodies have been recovered and the injured are being treated in hospitals. Nearly 100 others, including 25 army soldiers, are missing in the unprecedented cloudburst that hit the town early Friday.

“Heavy rains have forced us to suspend the rescue operations in Leh town.

“The moment weather improves, the rescue and relief operations would be restarted,” said a senior official here.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who visited Leh Friday, has sanctioned Rs.5 crore immediately for relief to victims. Omar flew to Leh after the runway at the airport there was restored. The runway had been inundated due to the flood waters and mud slushes.

President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Governor N.N. Vohra have expressed grief and sorrow at the loss of human lives and assured all possible help.

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

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

Army and Indian Air Force helicopters have also been pressed into service.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is to visit Leh Saturday along with a team of doctors and paramedics.

According to latest reports from Leh, Azad’s arrival had been delayed due to the bad weather.

The cloudburst, flash floods and mudslides that hit Leh town around midnight Friday washed away concrete structures including 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, ITBP camp, CRPF camp, some government offices, main transmitter of All India Radio Leh and residential homes have been extensively damaged by the flash floods.

The general manager of BSNL said that according to preliminary estimates the corporation has suffered a loss of around Rs.12 crore because of damage to its equipment.

The damage to the BSNL headquarters led to communications being completely disrupted in Leh town.

Another service provider, Airtel whose network is still operating in Leh has issued SIM cards to the local administration for setting up helplines.

State Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, who belongs to Ladakh region, is camping in Leh to supervise relief and rescue operations.

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

The cloudbursts occurred at Choglamsar village, which is situated at the top of Leh town.

Hundreds of locals waded through four feet deep mud to rush to higher reaches as mudslides and flash floods inundated low lying areas in the town.

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

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