Death toll reaches 165 in Leh, 81 foreign tourists rescued

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Leh, Aug 9 (ANI): Rescue and relief efforts were on in full swing in flashfloods devastated Leh

At least 81 foreign tourists and six tour guides were rescued by the Air Force from Zanskar Valley on Monday while the death toll in the devastated Leh rose to 165 and 400 others remained missing.

According to official sources, 150 of the dead have been identified so far. The victims include a Romanian woman, 15 Nepalese nationals and two Tibetans.

Two French nationals and a Spaniard were yet to be traced, they said.

Sniffer dogs, which arrived here by an IAF transport aircraft, have been pressed into service to look for survivors as relief efforts by security forces gained momentum who were taking the help of heavy duty bulldozers and other machines to clear the rubble.

The Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF), police and civilian authorities were trying hard to remove the piles of mud and slush which had buried villages in the worst-battered Choglusmar belt here as well as to restore telephone links, the sources said.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today visited Leh for the second time after the tragedy struck and directed the Border Roads Organisation to clear the Manali-Leh highway within next three days. He asked the officials engaged in relief work to ensure that procedural formalities do not delay the operation.

The IAF carried out a record 62 sorties by Chetak helicopters in five and half hours to bring back 81 foreign campers and six tour guides from the 11,000-feet Zanskar Valley who were stuck there since intervening night of August 5 and 6 after cloudburst and flash floods wreaked havoc in Leh and surrounding areas.

The foreigners rescued include 17 British and French nationals, nine people from the Netherlands, eight from Czechoslovakia, seven Germans and four Israelis, said Indian Air Force officials.

200 people, including foreigners, are still stranded in various places in the affected area, officials said. (ANI)

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