“I have just taken out the body of a four-year-old girl. We really had to try hard as her foot was completely buried in the rubble. No one wanted to mutilate her body further.”
This was how Sahil, a taxi driver from Srinagar, described his experience when he joined the rescue work in Leh on Friday. Sahil was stranded in the town, as the highway to Srinagar was closed.
“I have seen two huge halls full of bodies. With every passing minute, the toll was rising,” Sahil said in a chocking voice over the phone from Leh in the north-eastern part of Jammu and Kashmir, which was hit by flash floods and mudslides, triggered by cloudbursts at 1.30 am on Friday.
Ladakh is about 450 km east of Srinagar and is a popular destination for Western tourists and backpackers. It is a high-altitude desert, about 11,500 feet above sea level. It normally experiences very low rainfall.
Sahil, whose phone was among the few that were still working, as private services were not affected as badly as the state-run BSNL, was staying at the Leh bus stand.
Sahil was stationed about a kilometre away from Choglamsar village, a low-lying area about 13 km from Leh, where houses and buildings had been swept away.
“The rain started late in the evening and water began coursing down the area’s mountains,” a news agency quoted a Kashmiri businessman Kausar Makhdoomi, who was on a holiday in Leh, as saying.
Dr Shakeel Ramshoo, a geologist at Kashmir University in Srinagar, said, “These slopes are very steep and full of small stones and mud. With the pressure of water, it gained mass and momentum and destroyed everything on the way.”
Leh resident Loropo, told HT over the phone: “Leh hasn’t seen such calamity ever. We weren’t prepared to face the nature’s fury as we never comprehended it even in our dream.”
Lorpo moved out of his home along with eight family members at midnight when his home got submerged in flash floods. He took shelter at a higher place.