M A I N   N E W S

Cloudburst toll 132
l 600 persons still missing l Rescue teams land in Leh l Efforts on to restore road and communication links 
Ehsan Fazili & Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Srinagar/Chandigarh, August 7
Rescue teams on Saturday pulled out more bodies trapped under the debris in Leh areas devastated by deadly cloudbursts that have left 132 persons dead and over 400 injured. Rescue teams are trying to access remote villages in the high-altitude and hostile terrain to locate more than 600 persons who are still missing.

The relief operations, being jointly conducted by the Army, the police, security agencies and the civil administration, are going on a massive scale in the area.

The IAF on Saturday launched six sorties to airlift relief material and rescuers to the affected areas. Two IL-76 heavy-lift aircraft and four AN-32 tactical transporters took off from Chandigarh and landed at Leh around noon, ferrying 125 personnel from the National Disaster Relief Force along with around 30 tonne material, including medicines, generators, tents, blankets, portable X-ray machines and emergency rescue kits.

Two teams from Health and Family Welfare Ministry, comprising specialist doctors and surgeons, and five tonne of medical supplies were also airlifted from Delhi.

Western Command at Chandimandir (Chandigarh) sent around 4,000 packets of ready-to-eat meals for distribution among the affected locals.

No flights could be operated to Leh yesterday as the runway was inundated with slush and debris and the air traffic control tower was damaged. However, it was made operational by the Army engineers and the IAF.

Officials here said that 53 bodies have been identified so far. Of these, 31, including eight from Doda district and four from Kargil district, have been sent to their respective places. Sources fear that the death toll could cross over 500 as several remote villages were yet to be accessed by rescue teams. A small village before Choglumsur, which bore the brunt of the incessant rains, was completely wiped out as rescue workers were looking for survivors in the mud slush and debris.

According to the Defence spokesman, the Army has pressed all its resources and manpower to evacuate the injured and provide them treatment at the military hospital in Leh. Army personnel used heavy machineries to remove the debris and recover the bodies, which were shifted to the mortuary of the civil hospital for identification. Seeing the high number of casualties arriving, doctors including specialists, were rushed in from adjoining military hospitals. Lieutenant General SK Singh, General Officer Commanding, 14 Corps, conducted an aerial survey of the affected areas. Several Army teams have been dispatched to Choglamsar, Phyang, Karu, Nimu and Kargil, the spokesm an added.

Authorities said that the Army had suffered losses in Turtuk area. Some of the villages along the Chang La pass, world’s second highest motorable road, were also believed to have been washed away in the torrential rains.

Nearly 300 locals with serious injuries are being treated at the military hospital.

Efforts are on to restore the road link to Leh which remained cut off from rest of the country on day two.

Special service aircraft are being earmarked to airlift 19 VSAT terminals and associated equipment to Leh so that mobile and telecom connectivity could be restored in the affected areas.

The IAF aircraft also evacuated some patients to Chandigarh for treatment. The air force has also agreed to ferry bodies of tourists to Delhi in case no civilian flights are available from Leh.

Meanwhile, a disaster management cell has been set up at the Chandigarh Air Force Station to coordinate relief and rescue operations. It has three senior officers, including medical specialists.

Union Minister Farooq Abdullah reached the area this morning from Kashmir. Later, two of his Cabinet colleagues — Ghulam Nabi Azad and Prithviraj Chavan — also reached here after making an earlier unsuccessful attempt to land.

(With inputs from agencies)

AI operates 3 flights

New Delhi, August 7
Air India today operated three flights to Leh and brought back 325 passengers stranded there.

Air India operated two flights on Delhi-Leh-Delhi sector and one on Jammu-Leh-Jammu sector with Airbus A-320 aircraft.

“We carried 222 passengers from Leh to Delhi and 123 passengers from Leh to Jammu,” an Air India spokesperson said here.

Tomorrow, the national carrier will be operating three flights from Leh to Delhi. The flight will take off from Leh at 7.05 am, 11.05 am and 11.40 am with special fare of Rs 9,000 instead of the regular fare of Rs 11,661, he added.

Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines have launched additional three flights each to Leh to bring back stranded persons. — TNS/PTI





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