HUNDREDS of people got killed and thousands are missing and numerous were injured in worst ever cloud bursts and flash floods in Leh which caused unprecedented destruction in the entire district in general and Leh town in particular on August 6. In these adverse conditions, volunteers of the Sewa Bharati, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarathi Parishad (ABVP) and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram started all-out rescue and relief operations. The leaders of all these organisations met the Dy Commissioner Leh, Chief Executive Councillor of LDHC and Brigadier Dutta of Army and submitted them written letters extending full support to relief and rescue operations. They appreciated the relief operation by all these organisations.
According to reports, a RSS training camp (ITC) was underway near Leh when the disaster struck. Suspending the camp activities, all the swayamsevaks rushed at the catastrophe site and immediately started the rescue and relief operations. In the meantime, the Sewa Bharati J&K through its unit in Leh in association with the Ladakh Phande Tsongpa had already established a relief operation camp in Leh and is looking after the needs of the affected people.
According to reports, five villages – Nimmo, Basgo, Shaboo, Faing and Ney, apart from Choglamsar and Leh town, have been very badly hit. Before the people and administration could wake up to the prevailing situation, the natural calamity had caused unprecedented damages everywhere. The district hospital was flooded, bus stands flattened and vehicles were seen floating in the heart of town. The communication equipment of BSNL got completely damaged in the flash floods thereby tying the hands of the administration in starting early relief and rescue operations as damage to the telephone exchange rendered all mobile and landline phones useless.
Flooded hospitals, flattened bus stands, washed away houses and floating cars amidst echo of wailing people were all that was left after the flash floods. What to talk of road connectivity with Kargil, the road link of Leh town with adjoining villages got completely snapped as numerous culverts and bridges got washed away in the floods.
According to the latest conservative estimates till August 16, 179 bodies have been recovered, more than 600 are still missing besides the injured whose number is around over 1,000. The link roads to Leh from Kulu Manali as also National High Way 1D connecting Ladakh to rest of the State and country have been blocked. The Choglamsar was reportedly inhabited by around 150 houses but the cloud bursts and the flash floods devastated it completely and there is no trace of any inhabitant.
Ladakh, the second largest district after Kutch in Gujarat in terms of area, is also known as land of high passes or broken moon. Surrounded by Kunlun mountain range in the North, Himalayas in the South, it is the sparsely populated regions of Jammu and Kashmir State. Renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture Ladakh has Tibet to the East, Lahul Spiti to its South, Jammu and Kashmir to its West and Kunlun region to its North. Leh also has the distinction of being one of the few remaining abodes of the Buddhism in north. The Himalayas create a rain shadow denying entry to monsoon clouds. The average rainfall is 90mm. It is with such geographic conditions that houses in Leh and other parts of Ladakh are mostly constructed of mud and mud bricks, which also helps them to maintain heat during the extreme winter months. This is one of the reasons that massive amount of mud got accumulated on the streets and inside the houses creating hindrance in the rescue operations.
In Jammu, the Sewa Bharati organised an emergency meeting in which social workers of many organisations were present to chalk out the strategy to provide immediate relief to the victims of the disaster. All members paid homage to those who died in the disaster and formed a relief committee under the name of Ladakh Aapda Sahayata Samiti to assist the victims and affected families in Leh. Brig. (Retd.) Shri Suchet Singh has been unanimously elected president of the Samiti. Dr Kuldeep Gupta is secretary and Shri Abay Pargal will be treasurer.
As an immediate measure, some cash donations were immediately transferred from Jammu to the group of swayamsevaks working in Leh. They purchased whatever relief material they could get from the nearby local markets and started distributing them. According to latest reports, a relief package of 2,000 blankets, a set of utensils for 500 families, 2,000 clothes and 500 shoes is on the way and will soon reach the calamity site. Some injured from Leh who have now arrived at Jammu are also being contacted by Sewa Bharati workers to provide them necessary help.
“The devastation of this magnitude needs restoration on all fronts. On psychological front expression of sympathy and nearness with those who lost their near and dear ones, who lost their belongings etc., and on economic front immediate mitigation of the problems of those who survived the calamity but who lost every bit of their saved and secured future. No help, howsoever, of what-so-ever measure it may be, can restore the original peace and tranquility. The task is gigantic and beyond the competence of one agency or one organisation. The affected people need beddings, clothing, utensils, stores and many items of day to day need. Above all they need a roof over their heads to protect them from the ensuing harsh winter which when comes stays on and on,” said Brig. (Retd) Shri Suchet Singh.
He said on an average a family requires at least 4 quilts, 4 blankets and equal number of mattresses 4 pillows and a big darri. All this material is necessary for high altitude places like Leh where the temperature goes below zero degree Celsius during winter months which start from October, latest by early November. The approximate cost of these items works out to Rs 6,500 per family of four members. In clothing sweaters, warm shirts, inners, jeans/warm trousers, jackets are required. The average cost works out to around Rs 8,000. As regard to the utensils the minimum requirements are one pressure cooker of at least 5 liter capacity, 6 plates for lunch/dinner, 6 glasses, 6 katori, 2 patila with lids, 2 buckets per family. The approximate cost works out to around Rs 2,000.
“The cost of constructing dwelling units comprising two rooms (one room 12X12 and the other one 12X15 including kitchen) in mud with tin roof will cost approximately Rs 2-2.25 lakh without labour component for which we intend to involve the beneficiary. The estimates are only tentative and may vary depending upon the requirements of the site. Similarly, the requirement is based on an assumption of four member family the factual position can be assessed only after the connectivity is restored,” Shri Suchet Singh added.