More than 150 foreign tourists trapped in Leh, where flashfloods have killed 165 people, were relocated to safer places on Tuesday as the Indian Army intensified its rescue and relief operations, officials said.
Army columns moved into some of the worst affected areas by trekking for miles through mud and debris. "This was a task the army has performed with extreme urgency and efficiency since Aug 5-6 when the flash floods swept away villages and flattened houses in Leh," an army officer told IANS.
"Several army columns have been deployed in Ladakh for relief operations. The tourists stranded at various locations have been relocated to safer locations and provided with the required medicare, food and shelter," Lt Col JS Brar, the officiating spokesperson of the Northern Command of the Indian Army, said in a statement.
"The army aviation helicopters have also been pressed into the evacuation of critically ill tourists from various locations in Ladakh for treatment to the Army Hospital in Leh," he said.
He said 151 foreign tourists of different nationalities were stuck at Lamayuru, a tourist attraction in Leh district, known for its Buddhist monasteries and monks.
The army has provided the required relief to them, he said.
The army has also requested its Pakistani counterpart to help in locating 28 soldiers who are missing after the tragedy and might have slipped across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries.
Kashmir zone Inspector General of Police Farooq Ahmad told IANS: "We have recovered 165 bodies so far, 140 of whom have been identified. The relief and rescue operations continue in Leh town and 12 villages adjacent to it."
About 400 injured are being treated in different makeshift hospitals in Leh town, he said.
The villages of Skyurbuchan, Baldes and Katchathang in Khalsi block of Leh district, too, have been affected by the unprecedented rainfall in the region.
Army is providing relief to them and camps for the purpose have been established.
Traffic on both the highways connecting Leh to Manali and Srinagar remains suspended. The process of clearing the highways and restoration of bridges is underway.
Leh is 434 km from Srinagar and 474 km from Manali in Himachal Pradesh, to which it is connected by an alternative highway.
The cloudburst occurred at Choglamsar village, which is situated above Leh town, causing flash floods and mudslides that washed away government offices, paramilitary camps and residential homes.
Among the worst hit are the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR), many local hotels and shops.
The headquarters of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), a government polytechnic, an ITBP camp, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp, some government offices and the main transmitter of All India Radio Leh have been extensively damaged.
Situated at 3,524 m above sea level, Leh is spread over 45,110 sq km comprising the main town and 12 adjacent villages.