Leh death toll 132, 450 injured7 August 2010
The Daily Excelsior
LEH: With rescue workers pulling out more bodies trapped under the debris in the areas devastated by cloudburst and flash floods, the death toll has gone up to 132 and number of injured touched 450 even as six Indian Air Force (IAF) aircrafts carrying relief material, rescue workers and doctors landed here to provide succour to the people of the district, which was rocked by catastrophe on the intervening night of August 5 and 6. Over 400 persons including 30 Army men are still believed to be missing and efforts are being made with the help of Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), State Police and other para-military forces to trace them. In the meanwhile, reports said that an Army unit and Ladakh Scouts Regimental Centre at Nubra too suffered damages in the natureís fury and efforts are being made to confirm loss of lives as unconfirmed reports indicated that about 17 persons got killed in the area. An official spokesman said that with the first ray of light, the rescue operations were resumed in the main town as well as villages of Saboo, Choglamsar, Nimoo, Basgo, Ney and Phyand, where the cloud-burst and flash floods have caused massive destructions. The Choglamsar village, which bore the maximum brunt, has completely been flattened with mud everywhere. Lt General, S K Singh, the General Officer Commanding, Fire and Fury Corps conducted aerial survey followed by a visit to disaster struck areas before pressing rescue teams to recover the bodies as well as trapped persons, a Defence Ministry spokesman said. Carrying out rescue and relief operations in all the affected areas was a daunting task as all the roads connecting affected areas with rest of the district have got washed away completely and rescuers had to wade through knee deep mud to extricate people trapped under the debris of collapsed structures. According to the locals, Choglamsar was inhabited with around 100 to 150 houses but the cloud-burst and flash floods caused such a devastation that not even a single structure was there now and it seems that there was no habitation ever before. 'The maximum bodies are being recovered from this village only', they said and didnít rule out the recovery of more bodies from the area. During the daylong rescue operations in devastated areas, 12 more bodies were recovered thereby raising the toll in the catastrophe to 132. A total of 53 deceased were identified and 31 dead bodies were disposed off. Among the identified deceased are eight persons from Doda and four from Kargil. Their bodies will be flown to Jammu and Kargil tomorrow. A large number of people, who were trapped in the debris and mud, were also rescued and shifted to hospitals of Army and para-military forces besides make-shift medical units. With this, the number of persons having injured in the catastrophe has risen to 450. According to the Defence Ministry spokesman, 400 civilians and 33 Army jawans of Bihar Regiment were still believed to be missing and efforts were being made to trace them. Even a contractor said that he had engaged 150 labourers for carrying out developmental works and all of them were missing from Shyong village where he had lodged them. Sources said that reports have also been received that an Army unit and a regimental center of the Ladakh Scouts have suffered extensive damages and even around 17 persons lost their lives in the natural calamity in Nubra Valley. However, further details were not available due to lack of communication link. As sky turned over-cast during the day today, panic gripped the people, who moved to the adjoining heights fearing more rainfall. But there was no rain till late this evening. Even otherwise, every face in the town and adjoining areas was fear stricken and every eye was filled with tears. Meanwhile, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State in Prime Ministerís Office reached here to assess the damages caused by the flash floods and monitor relief and rescue operation for the affected people. Accompanied by Minister for Tourism and Cultural, Nawang Rigzin Jora and Deputy Commissioner Leh, T Angchok, the Union Ministers conducted aerial survey of the ravaged areas and expressed grief over the large scale loss to the human lives and property. They also assured full support of the Central Government to the people of Leh. Six Indian Air Force aircrafts carrying relief material, rescue workers and doctors also landed here to provide succour to the people of the region affected by cloudburst and flash floods. Two IL-76 and four AN-32 aircraft from Chandigarh landed here this afternoon with 125 rescue and relief personnel of National Disaster Response Force, medicines, generators, tents, emergency rescue kits, blankets, dry food and other items to meet the immediate requirement of those affected. Two teams from the Union Health Ministry comprising 11 specialist doctors and surgeons from Delhi also reached the ravaged town. They have brought five tons of medicines with them. One of IL-76 aircraft had earlier left from Delhi for Leh but failed to land due to inclement weather and returned to Chandigarh. A second IL-76 transport aircrafts along with four AN-32 aircrafts had left from Chandigarh, but had to return. The aircrafts landed in their second attempts. The Chief Controller (Research and Development) DRDO, W Selvamurthy, along with a team of experts also arrived here to look at ways to prevent further damage to the town in the event of more heavy rains there, the spokesman said, adding adequate number of aircraft and helicopters are available at Kargil, Chandigarh and Udhampur to move to Leh. As the lack of communication system was hampering the rescue and relief operations besides delaying dissemination of information between district administration of Leh and divisional administration of Kashmir, the Tri-Services Disaster Management Coordination Group met at New Delhi this morning and decided to send special service aircraft to carry 19 VSATs (Very Small Aperture Terminals) and other equipment of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) here so that mobile and telecom connectivity could be restored at the earliest, the Defence spokesman said, adding in the meantime, two INMARSATs have been provided to Leh district administration for meeting immediate communication requirements. The Group also reviewed the ongoing rescue operations and briefed the Defence Minister about the steps being taken to provide succour to the affected people of Leh. Meanwhile, all out efforts are being made to restore Lehís road link with Kargil with General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF) and ITBP working round the clock to plug the breaches on highway. Our Jammu Correspondent adds Sewa Bharti in a meeting of social organisations stressed the need for providing immediate relief to the victims of cloud burst in Leh. The meeting also constituted the Ladakh Apda Sahita Samiti and Ladakh Apda Sahita Kosh to provide immediate relief to the victims in Leh, Ladakh. Soon after its announcement Sahita Samiti J&K and Jai Kargil Jai Bharat Kosh donated Rs one lakh each to the Ladakh Apda Kosh. Brig. (retd) Suchet Singh, a RSS leader will head the Samiti. He appealed the people throughout the nation to come forward in providing relief to the victims of Leh tragedy by donating in the account number of the Ladakh Apda Kosh 194800010157923. Dr Kuldeep Gupta of Sewa Bharti was appointed secretary of the Samiti while Abhay Pargal will be its treasurer. Meanwhile, a group of Samiti volunteers left for Leh today to provide aid to the victims.