M A I N   N E W S

Ladakh Relief work in disarray
n Civil machinery yet to get its act together n 120 persons still stranded, rescue operations continue n Recce teams spot 14 stranded French nationals at Debringg n Scores walk across Ladakh to shelter & safety 
Ajay Banerjee  writes from Ladakh

August 11
Frantic messages continued to pour in from tourists and locals stranded in remote areas across Ladakh for the sixth straight day today. While 120-odd persons, including foreign nationals, are still reported stranded, hundreds of foreigners and locals are walking across the valleys, risking their lives to reach their homes and destinations.

Choppers of the Indian Army and the IAF are continuing rescue missions, as information on stranded persons is still pouring in. Army recce teams spotted some 14 French nationals at Debringg, some 120 km southeast of Leh this afternoon. Luckier were Briton Niel Turnbull and his French wife Francoise, who were airlifted from the remote Marka valley. The duo was full of praise for an Army doctor, but could not recollect his name.

Clueless best describes the state of the civil administration here. It does not seem to know how to get a group of students stuck here since August 6 back to Srinagar. The homeless are yet to be counted. The civil hospital reopened only yesterday, five days after the catastrophe, and conducted its first surgery, a C-Section.

The extent of collapse of the civil machinery is such that the Austrian Embassy called up the Indian Army directly requesting for evacuation of two of its nationals, saying one of them was seriously injured. Army Aviation choppers were flown to pick up the two from Lamayaru. Both were then landed at the Military Hospital in Leh.

Minutes after landing, Austrian national Benno Wisenberger made a call to the embassy in New Delhi from a local official’s phone and broke down while narrating his rescue. “Austrian Embassy officials then called back 14 Corps officials at Leh to thank them,” local Army officials coordinating the rescue said.

Even now, 42 foreigners are stranded at Padam and another 75 at Rumptse on the Leh-Manali road. Twentyone students and five teachers from the Islamic University of Science and Technology, Pulwama, are waiting to be evacuated to Srinagar. It may be a long wait for them as there is only one flight a week between Leh and Srinagar.

The Military Hospital has solely shouldered the entire load of the catastrophe. It has so far treated 479 patients while 102 persons with serious illnesses are still admitted here. Thirteen patients in need of orthopaedic surgeries have been shifted to Jammu. Separately, 34 Armymen being treated here before the floods have also been shifted to Udhampur.

Today, a 6.5-tonne BSNL generator was shifted to Leh in an IAF IL-76. It is expected to help re-establish broken communication links. Airlifting BSNL equipment continues to top the priority list as disruptions in communication lines is severely hampering coordination and rescue and relief operations.

60-km walk to shelter

An Israeli couple and their daughter walked 60 km from Alachi to Leh though a chopper was on its way to rescue them. People have been walking from Lamayaru, 130-odd km away, to reach the district headquarters. One such local resident, Gelson, walked three days to reach a relief camp last night





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