Saturday, August 7, 2010

Leh: 130 dead, 400 missing; relief planes for stranded tourists

At least 130 people are dead and about 400 people are still missing in Leh, the high altitude capital of Ladakh. Among those missing are 31 jawans of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) whose camp was washed away in flash floods following a cloud burst in the area.

The picturesque landscape of Ladakh has been completely destroyed. Fortunately, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the ITBP have managed to completely clean up the mud and slush from the runway - both commercial and military - to ensure landing in Leh.

Mile upon mile of devastation, some of it remote villages, that are yet to be visited after the disaster struck. The assessment of loss has so far been limited mostly to Leh and its suburbs.

Some villages along the Chang La pass, the world's second highest motorable road, have been completely washed away.

The extent of the devastation here was only known today after Union Minister Farooq Abdullah reached with an aerial survey team.

Cabinet colleagues Ghulam Nabi Azad and Prithviraj Chavan joined him soon after. The destruction stretches all the way to the last Indian Army post on the border - Tyakshi. 28 soldiers have died here, most of them washed away by the floodwaters.

"A number of places have been damaged very badly and will have to be restored rapidly to carry supplies and relief material to these areas," Farooq Abdullah.

In Leh, the district hospital is in ruins. In absence of a mortuary, bodies lie in the open, most unclaimed.

"We have brought a very big team of doctors from Delhi," said Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Contractors from across the region have reported several migrant labourers missing. Little hamlets along the Indus where they lived, mostly unaccounted, have been wiped away.

And as Azad and Farooq Abdullah tried to reach out to people in far off areas of Ladkah, the real challenge for the government is to search for missing and relief to survivors.

Flights for stranded passengers

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has directed his ministry to organise relief flights for stranded passengers in Leh.

The ministry has directed Air India, Jet and Kingfisher to operate 3 flights each to Leh on Sunday to bring back stranded people.

Airlines have been directed not to charge excessive fares during this crisis. The ministry is also coordinating with the Jammu and Kashmir government to airlift relief supplies.

Leh disaster - what's being done:
  • Five Air Force planes, three AN-32, and two IL-76 aircrafts carrying relief material, medicines and a medical team have reached Leh.
  • 1200 Armymen are working round the clock to remove the rubble and are searching for people trapped under the rubble.
  • Four rehabilitation centres have been set up. Over 1000 people are being fed and sheltered at these centres.
Control rooms have been set up to monitor the flow of information.

Control Room Numbers:

9906990613, 9906990833, 9906990807, 9906983544, 9906990748, 9906990835, 990699078


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