Leh continues to count deaths; toll 17311 August 2010
The Daily Excelsior
LEH: The devastated district continued to count the deaths for the seventh day today with rescuers recovering seven more bodies from the debris in the ruined villages taking the toll to 173 while as despite all out efforts by the Border Roads Organization (BRO), the district is unlikely to get immediate road connectivity with rest of the State, which is otherwise imperative for reconstruction work and rehabilitation of affected populace well before the onset of winter. During the rescue operations in some of the ravaged villages, Army personnel with the assistance of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and other rescuers recovered seven more bodies today and with this the death toll in the worst ever devastation risen to 173. The possibility of toll increasing considerably cannot be ruled out, as hundreds of people were still believed to be missing in different parts of the district. 'At present, major focus of the administration is to restore road connectivity of all the affected villages besides that of the district with rest of the State as huge quantity of material will be required to be transported here for construction of new structures in order to rehabilitate the affected populace well before the onset of winters', a senior officer of the district administration said. He said that about 7 major and minor bridges have to be constructed between Khalsi area of Kargil and Leh for restoring road link of devastated district with rest of the State. Even reopening of Leh-Manali road via Polokongke La was taking time. During the past 7 days, the BRO has succeeded in clearing the road axes of Phyang-Nimu, Partapur-Tyakshi, Karu-Mahe-Debring, Nurla-Budhkhrbu and Panamik-Sasoma. Out of 29 bridges having washed away in the cloudburst and flash-floods, nine were restored while as work on others has been going on. 'Even though the Army and para-military forces are giving shelter to the displaced persons but they cannot continue doing so for long and we have to make some arrangements immediately. First, we will move all the affected populace to the tented accommodation and then start constructing permanent structures within a period of next two months so that well before the beginning of winter, the people could be provided proper accommodation', he added. Disclosing that there was not enough quantity of building material in the district at present, he said, 'the early restoration of road link of Leh with rest of the country is the need of the hour as creation of permanent structures for the affected populace and rebuilding of other infrastructure would require huge quantity of building material like cement and steel etc'. Meanwhile, Indian Air Force (IAF) continued operating their Cheetah helicopters to evacuate the seriously ill and dehydrated foreigners from inaccessible areas adjoining Leh. Twenty-eight foreign nationals including two children were airlifted from Rumtse and seven from Marko valley in daylong operation by 40 rescue sorties. Army also evacuated nine foreigners stranded at Bimah to Kargil by road. However, nearly 100 foreigners continued to remain held-up in cut-off areas, which include 76 at Pang valley. The IAF also brought a 6.5-ton BSNL generator in IL-76 and with this, the vital communication link is all set to be restored shortly. In addition, two dozers and excavators (JCB) each were also airlifted. Army has also managed to position one 163 KV generator using skid steer loader at SN Hospital for clearance of debris and provision of electric supply to the beleaguered hospital. Even airlifting of stranded passengers in commercial flights continued today. A total of 1030 people were airlifted to New Delhi and Srinagar in 9 flights of Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Kingfisher. The district administration today dropped relief material consisting of tents, ration, tarpaulin, blankets and mattresses in the villages of Skurbuchan and Domkhar-Do. Efforts were also made to bring ration to villages situated in deep gorges even as the situation has started limping back to normalcy in main town with restoration of electricity in many parts, movement of vehicles on roads, supply of water to homes and the businesses opening up again. Minister for Tourism and Culture, Nawang Rigzin Jora, who has been camping in the district ever since the disaster struck, today convened a meeting of the officers and issued necessary directions for further clearance of the roads, restoration of power and water supply in more areas and gearing up rescue and relief operations. Deputy Commissioner, T Angchok among others attended the meeting. Meanwhile, Tarun Vijay, Member Parliament, Rajya Sabha, who is on a tour to the district to take stock of the damages caused by un-precedented torrential rain on behalf of Nitish Gatkari, President, BJP, had a meeting with Chhering Dorjay, Chairman- Chief Executive Councillor, LAHDC, Leh and discussed how the BJP can help the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council in the rehabilitation of displaced persons. Mr Vijay, on behalf of BJP, offered to reconstruct 100 houses for the Tashi Gatsal, Choglamsar families. The CEC also had a meeting with Zubin Zaman, Humanitarian Response Manager of Oxfan India, who assured the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council that their organization will help to re-build 2500 houses. Mujumdar, Project Manager, Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) assured the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council that their company will help the affected villages around their Project site at Alchi. As huge quantity of arms and ammunition of CRPF got washed in the flash floods, services of experts have been taken for their recovery and the SP has advised the general public and all NGOs involved in the rescue operations between CRPF Camp to Skara including SNM Hospital and backyard of Shanuam to take extreme precautions while excavating the debris.