Leh floods: A scenic landscape now a disaster zone

What remains to be seen as one walks through Choglusmar village today are just piles of cars that have smashed into houses and shops, and  slush everywhere following the sudden cloudburst that triggered flash floods on Thursday night and Friday morning.
The magnitude of the natural diaster in the area popular with foreign tourists can be gauged from the fact that even two-storied houses are buried below tonnes of silt.
The anxious relatives and friends of the missing persons were seen searching for their loved ones and acquaintances. Some people also got into an altercation with the rescue workers and officials of the local administration, as they were not able to find their near and dear ones for the last two days since the diaster struck.

The elevation of the mud mounds has, at certain points, reached the topmost level of the high tension wires. The height of the slush also caused apprehension that many of the over 500 missing could be buried beneath.

As Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Army and General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) ploughed through the rummage with earth movers, cranes and other machines, one also could see tourists lending a helping hand as they removed boulders that had rolled down the hill with the slush and tended to the injured in makeshift relief camps.

Few foreigners, putting behind their worries to leave the disaster zone, were also be seen actively taking part in rescue missions. Both the ITBP and the Army have set up various camps to look after the hundreds injured.

The ITBP had also set up 'langar' (community kitchen) along the roads which is feeding hundreds of homeless.

The biggest roadblock that rescue workers are facing is the communication breakdown. The BSNL office has been severly damaged making communication lines go dead.
"The biggest problem is the communication breakdown. If communication is restored it will help in co-ordination of the rescue operations in a better way," Pashi Tsetan, Deputy Director with the development wing of the local administration said.

A visit to the district hospital is an eye opener. The old hospital building has been filled with the slush and everything has been moved to a new under-construction building.
Visible inside are hundreds of bandaged faces with injuries all over the body. The injuries, doctors say, were caused after being dragged in the slush for quite sometime before being rescued.

Many people who are missing are believed to have been swept away. The slush also swept away many houses with some areas completelty submerged.According to the officials, the locals build their houses with a mud called 'gomfa' which keeps them warm.

"The focus is on rescue operations. This is a disaster of huge proportions. The effort of all agencies is to put in the best effort and rescue the maximum number of people," said ITBP DIG P K Dhasmana who is leading thousands of his men in rescue operations.
A group of about 45 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel have also landed here and commenced  rescue operations. The NDRF team has brought with them high-tech and sophisticated equipment to quicken the rescue  efforts.

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