Leh: Finally weather has improved and planes have started landing at the airport here carrying the disaster management team with doctors, medicine and other relief materials in the Indian Air Force flights on Saturday.
Traffic jam still exists on the highways to Leh making it difficult for delivering relief material to people staying here and the adjoining areas which have been devastated by a cloudburst, followed by flash floods. Leh has been virtually cut off from other areas while many vehicles are washed away by flash floods.
The death toll has climbed to 112 even as 550 people including 25 Army men are still missing. About 15 columns of the Army have been deployed for rescue and search operations.
Earlier, heavy rains hampered rescue and relief operations. The airport was operational but no flight could land due to bad weather. Two separate planes carrying PDP president Farooq Abdullah, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and a DRDO team were forced to return to Srinagar and Chandigarh. The planes were also carrying relief supplies and a team of 140 National Disaster Relief Force personnel and doctors. The Met department has forecast more rains during the next 48 hours.
It’s been more than 24 hours since the calamity struck as sbout 400 people are injured. Severed communication and road links are also proving to be a big challenge. The cloudburst has affected at least 10,000 people.
DRDO director Dr Selvmurthy said: “We flew over Leh for 30 minutes, couldn’t land due to bad weather, had to come back to Chandigarh. It is still raining there. Hopefully the rains will stop and we will be able to land in Leh soon.”
“We took off today from Delhi at about 6.15 in the morning, with six tonnes of relief material in the IL 76 aircraft with 45 NDRL personnel and 15 docs of the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital with medicine, food and also other supplies like blankets and bed sheets. A squad was also there in the plane to search for people who are buried in the debris. But weather was very bad at Leh,” he added.
CM Omar Abdulla was one of the few people who were able to reach Leh on Friday. “The loss of so many lives is very unfortunate. We are trying to get who are still alive out of the debris. We are trying that medical aid and relief material should made available,” said Abdullah.
The disaster gives the embattled chief minister an opportunity to do some damage control, especially after being criticised for the way he managed the Valley protests recently.
Foreign tourists also trapped
Several foreigners were among the tourists reported to be stranded in Leh as air links were snapped after massive flash floods hit the town, washing away several government buildings and houses, according to a report from IANS in New Delhi.
“Some foreign nationals are reported to have been affected in the natural calamity,” a statement by the External Affairs ministry said. People may call to the satellite phone number of the control room 00870-7636-13623 to find information. A 24-hour helpline has also been set up in the control room. The numbers are 09906990787 and 09906990835.
“Air service hit, airport has debris, BSNL office has been washed away. The natural disaster was the most unprecedented in the history of Ladakh region,” said Ghulam Hassan Kahn, Lok Sabha MP from Ladakh.