At least 115 people were killed and over 370 injured, and many more are missing as flash floods caused by torrential rain hit Leh town and adjoining villages in the small hours of Friday. Several buildings were washed away.
The BSNL exchange in Leh has been damaged; the Srinagar-Leh road is unusable and the Leh airport has suspended all operations. In short, the area is virtually cut off from the rest of the world.
A cloudburst that occurred between 0030 and 0100 a.m. triggered torrential rain, mudslides and flash floods. Rescue operations have been taken up on a war-footing.
Speaking to The Hindu on the satellite phone, Deputy Commissioner Leh T. Angchuk confirmed that 110 bodies were recovered. Choglamsar village was the worst affected. Rescue operation was suspended for the night and would resume early in the morning.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) would be flown in from Chandigarh to assist the district administration in rescue operations, an official spokesman said
Jammu and Kashmir Director-General of Police Kuldeep Khoda told The Hindu: “The toll is likely to go up since many people are believed to be caught under the debris of houses that collapsed.” Police rescued over 2000 people and moved them to makeshift camps since their houses had been damaged, Mr. Khoda said.
The local radio station has been damaged. However, Doordarshan managed to show some visuals though its studio and transmitter have also been affected by the floods. Power supply has been disrupted.
The Srinagar-Leh Highway has been cut off as a crucial bridge between Syong and Nemu was washed away. The airport runway, which was under six-inch thick mud, has now been cleared. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah along with his team arrived in Leh to oversee the rescue operations.
Omar convenes meeting
Mr. Abdullah convened a meeting of the Group of Ministers, which directed the district administration to intensify relief and rescue operations and shift the affected people to safer locations on a war-footing. It was asked to provide relief including essential commodities and medicines and undertake a preliminary assessment of the losses urgently.
The meeting approved sanction of Rs. 2 crore for giving Rs. 1 lakh as ex gratia to the next of kin of each of those killed and relief to the injured. Another Rs. 1 lakh each would be paid to the next of kin of the deceased from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. Rs. 3 crore would be released for temporary restoration of public property and services in Leh district, an official spokesman said.