Flash floods kill over a hundred in India, 500 missing

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

India, which receives little rainfall most of the year, relies on the annual monsoon rains for its agriculture. However, they can cause major flooding and mudslides.
Image: Ekabhishek.

Five hundred people are missing and as many as 150 are reported to have been killed by flash floods in India, caused by a sudden cloudburst that hit Indian-controlled Kashmir on Friday. The downpour struck the town of Leh and several surrounding villages, and reportedly caused a mud slide that hit the refugee-populated village of Choglamsar.

Associated Press reported that at least five foreign tourists were among those killed. Their nationalities are not known but New Delhi Television (NDTV) reported that 110 tourists, half of them foreigners, were being looked after at an Army transit camp on the Leh-Manali road. NDTV also said that the tourists had been given food, medicine and phone connections to their embassies. Flights have been arranged by the Indian government to bring affected foreign tourists back home.

Massive relief efforts are continuing; Farooq Ahmad, who is Inspector General of Police in Kashmir reported on Sunday today that "63 bodies had been identified so far and that rescue teams were fanning out to six villages near Leh that had not yet been reached during relief operations." Believed to contain 5000 people, Choglamsar, on Leh's outskirts, is one of the villages that rescuers have been clearing roads to reach.

The army has been called in to assist in rescue work. Thousands of troops, police and paramilitary soldiers were clearing roads in order to reach isolated villages. Those living in the upper reaches, whose housing was not adequate to provide protection, will have borne the full impact of the mud slides caused by the 12 mm of rain that fell on Friday in just a few minutes.

Officials said that rescuers were digging through crushed homes and piles of mud to search for survivors. The hundreds of reported injured are being treated at an army hospital and several makeshift clinics. Mohammed Deen Khan, a social activist who has been assisting in rescue work, said the mud was 15 feet high in some places. Heavy earth-moving equipment has been brought in to move the tonnes of mud and boulders blocking roads.

The rescue officials have faced a serious problem due to the severe damage of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) office, a telecommunication enterprise, leading to the complete disruption of communication in the Leh region. The general manager of BSNL reports that the damage has caused a loss of 120 million INR. Another telecommunication enterprise, Airtel, has provided SIM cards to local administration for setting up hotlines that people can call for assistance.

Cquote1.svg The major problem is due to the communication breakdown. If communication is restored it will help in co-ordination of rescue operations in a better way. Cquote2.svg

—Pashi Tsetan, local administration development wing (deputy director)

Pashi Tsetan, a local administration development wing (deputy director) said, "The major problem is due to the communication breakdown. If communication is restored it will help in co-ordination of rescue operations in a better way." Other institutions like Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR), the ITBP camp, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and others have also been affected.

1,314 people, mostly tourists, have been airlifted from Leh to Delhi. Three additional Indian Airlines flights from Jammu and Delhi have been planned. Three IL-76 and four AN-32 aircraft carried relief material to Leh this morning, and four more by Jet Airways and Air India and three by Kingfisher Airlines will carry relief material and doctors to Leh.

The ITBP has sent water tankers containing drinking water to affected areas. Medical camps have been set up in villages like Saboo. The bodies of eleven persons were transported to Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Rajasthan this morning.

India's crisis comes as Pakistan is experiencing the worst floods in the country's history.


Sources

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