Leh tragedy toll rises to 177, many foreigners stranded

Pakistan Armys help sought to trace missing officers

Meanwhile, the security forces and other agencies worked towards restoring some semblance of normalcy in the beleagured region.

The deceased foreigners were identified as Augareils Hendri, Hellot Jacques and Daniel Haury of France, Ms Marro Mas Maria Lourdes of Spain and Ricardo Pitton of Italy.

Twenty-eight army personnel including three junior commissioned officers (JCOs) are missing.

Reports said the help of Pakistani army has been sought in tracing the missing soldiers believed to have been washed away in flash floods.

The Leh-Manali road, connecting the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir reopened partially on Tuesday; the Leh-Srinagar road continued to be blocked even as repair work is on.

Traffic on the whole stretch of 475 km between Manali and Leh could not be restored as repair work is going on at several places. The 222-km stretch between Manali and Sarchu was made motorable and now the work is on to reopen the stretch between Sarchu and Leh, said a government official in Srinagar.

A defence spokesman added that 151 foreigners were stranded at Lama Yuru. They got in touch with the army, which provided them assistance.

Apart from clearing a number of landslides, the Border Roads Organisation is presently engaged in restoring traffic on Leh-Srinagar at various segments. A segment of 4-5 km on the road between Leh-Khalsi washed away in the flash floods will see eight Bailey bridges being laid to restore vehicular movement. Two bridges have already been laid and efforts are on to have two more ready in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the Leh-Igo and Rumtse-Manali roads have opened up through BRO efforts. Two other diversions at damaged bridge sites at Pathar Sahib have also been undertaken.

The DRDO’s laboratory at Leh, Defence Institute of High Altitude Research, located in a lower level as compared to Leh had also suffered extensive damage.

The next day, a nine-member DRDO team led by Dr W Selvamurthy, distinguished scientist and chief controller R&D (Life Sciences) reached Leh.

The team carried processed food from DRDL (Defence Food Research Laboratory, Mysore), 1,000 blankets and three fabricated plastic sheets for temporary accommodation, adequate quantity of water purification tablets and four sets of satellite phones. Significantly, the team included doctors and nursing assistants apart from two psychologist counselors, whose services will be paramount in the coming days.

The mammoth relief and rescue operations continue into the sixth day with 36 army Columns deployed. While an army cook house established at Choglamsar provided food and drinking water to over 2,000 civilians, 200 others were given food and shelter at Bazgo and Nimu.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah appealed to his ministers to donate a month’s or a week’s salary towards the chief minister’s relief fund.

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