Foreigners galore: Scores of tourists continued to arrive despite the disaster
INDIA’S army said on Saturday (August 14) it has restored key road links damaged by freak floods that hit the high-altitude trekking area of Ladakh as scores of tourists continued to arrive despite the disaster.
Sudden rain storms more than a week ago triggered flash floods that killed 189 people, police said, and swept away buildings, roads and power cables in the town of Leh, the main city of Ladakh in the Himalayas.
Some 400 people are still missing, authorities said.
“The army was able to open Leh-Manali and Leh-Srinagar road for traffic” after building seven bridges in less than a week, army spokesman SN Acharya said.
The roads connected the ravaged town of Leh to Indian Kashmir’s summer capital of Srinagar and the neighbouring Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
“We are still looking for the missing people” who may include foreigners, Acharya said.
Despite the devastation, tourism officials said foreign tourists who had booked treks before the disaster were still arriving in Ladakh.
Thousands of visitors from India and elsewhere travel to Ladakh each year during July and August for trekking and rafting expeditions and to experience the area’s ancient Buddhist culture.
“Each flight to Leh brings in more foreigners and they immediately leave for trekking expeditions,” said Farooq Shah, who heads Kashmir’s tourism department.
Officials said as many as 2,000 foreigners were in the region when the disaster struck out of which five are reported to have died.
The Kashmir state government said it was still trying to establish the exact number and location of tourists via embassies and travel agencies.
Those flood victims in remote areas have had little choice but to hunker down and wait for rescue after roads and trekking trails in remote areas were washed away.
Indian army helicopters have rescued scores of trekkers and rescue operations were continuing.
The Indian army has a large presence in Ladakh, which shares a sensitive and in many places disputed border with China, as well as with Pakistan.
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