Flash floods in Kashmir kill 103
At least 370 people are injured in the mountainous Ladakh area in the Indian-held portion of Kashmir. Televised images show houses buried under as much as 10 feet of mud.
August 06, 2010|By Mark Magnier and Anshul Rana, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from New Delhi — At least 103 people were killed by flash floods and enveloping mud torrents Friday in a usually peaceful holiday corner of the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir after a massive downpour inundated steep mountain ravines.
Troops pulled people from freshly formed bogs of mud and rubble in Ladakh, an area of the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. Cellphone towers in Ladakh toppled, severing communication in many areas and adding to the hurdles facing rescuers, said Kuldeep Khoda, the state police chief.
The storm followed the worst flooding in decades in neighboring Pakistan, which killed at least 1,500 people and left hundreds of thousands displaced.
At least 370 people were injured in Kashmir as newly formed rivers destroyed houses and vehicles. Televised images from the state-run Doordarshan channel, the only one able to transmit from the area, showed houses in the town of Leh buried under as much as 10 feet of mud, approximating a modern-day Pompeii. Some buildings had been shifted several hundred feet.
Officials said about 2,000 foreign tourists were in the remote Himalayan holiday haven, but there were no immediate reports of casualties among them. Visitors recalled a powerful thunderstorm hitting after midnight, followed by torrents of hail.
August is peak tourist season as many Western travelers, including hikers, backpackers and adventure sports enthusiasts, descend on Ladakh, a mountainous desert about 11,500 feet above sea level.
Many of the highways leading into Leh, the area's main town, were damaged, complicating efforts to route relief supplies to the population. On the few routes still partially open, vehicles were backed up for miles, even as bad weather grounded helicopters poised to ferry in aid.
"I was stuck in my village," one resident told television reporters. "I came from over the mountain. We were 16 of us. Now we are only six."
Analysts said the death toll would have been far higher without the military bases in the area, not far from the border with China, able to assist in rescue operations. An estimated 6,000 army and air force personnel stationed there are acclimatized to the high altitude."The locals and tourists are all working together to ensure we can save any injured," T. Angchuk, a local official, told reporters. "We've done whatever we could with whatever we had."
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