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Flashfloods in Leh

August 7, 2010


Most painful post, ever : the death toll after the flash floods in Ladakh is now ( Saturday) 132, 375 wounded, and mounting. The worst hit parts are the area around the old bus stand , and the Choklamsar Tibetan camp. The geography involved :

Old town Leh sits below the ridge with the Leh Palace . North and east the terrain forms a tilted bowl , the flood ( 48 millimeters of rain in one minute ..) would have come down this way , before heading down towards the Indus. Along that route there would be two major streams hitting first the area with a lot of government agencies ,the new bus stand , SECMOL, the Mentsekhang institute of traditional medicine and small work shops before everyting went over the airfield.

The least affected part was the Changspa area ,north of the ridge with palace , where you find most of the guesthouses. From a Indiamike thread :

I was in Upper Changspa when this happen and until this morning, the mud and debris still on the road around town, especially on the road towards Shey. Most of the people in Changspa, including me, spent last night in Shanti Stupa, locals and tourists alike. I heard group of Jewish chanting prayers followed by group of local Buddhist afterwards. And in front of my own eyes, from Shanti Stupa we can see the river in the village becoming so muddy and violent, ripping all the trees beside it. My heart goes to all the victims.

East of Leh you have you have the valley around the Sabu … river , right now , that goes all the way up to the 5400 meter high Digar La pass . This all ends up at the Choklamsar Tibetan settlement , with a lot of casualties. One report mentions a small village before Choklamsar being completely wiped out.

Some major points , last update Sunday morning :

* So far , no tourist casualties reported ( but the Foreign Ministry now vaguely mentions tourists being “affected”).
* Leh airport is now operational again , flying out the wounded and bringing in rescue teams/supplies. Manpower is not a real problem , beacuse of the heavy Army presence in Ladakh.
* Cell phones are working , internet still out . The official Ladakh site is unchanged since all this started.
* Manali-Leh is out at Rothang , Zing Zing Bar and the Baralacha La has had massive landslides.
*It´s still raining in Leh , and the weather forecast projects more rain in the coming five days.
*Srinagar-Leh is out at the Nimmu bridge , and on top of that one poster reports from Srinagar that yesterdays bus was cancelled after becoming a target of stone throwers there.
* So far we are practically only seeing reports from Leh : it will get worse. Nubra has also been affected.

UPDATE , Sunday :

*The web is starting to work : the leh.nic.in page has been updated , mentioning now 145 dead , 102 identified , all but two Nepalis said to be Indian citizens . No Tibetans from Choklamsar seem to be named , few if any refugees are Indian citizens , and travel with the “Yellow Book ” document.
( For those that are in Leh now , with shaky connections : fastest way of letting others know that you are ok , first step : log in to your travel site , most have a member profile page that shows “latest activity ” , including latest log in . )

* Swedish daily Aftonbladet ( their photo at the top) quotes the FO saying that three Swedes are missing , as in not accounted for : ” we have not been able to contact them yet” .

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6 comments

  1. Very sad. Casualties may go up considerably and some missing persons may never be found, knowing the extent of damage.


  2. You mention SECMOL – any more word on how they are doing? Was the campus affected?


  3. ya really very sad this is the worst calamity ever in leh…cant imagine such thing would happen to this beautiful land..i was about to ride to leh this week from 10th but i guess ill have to delay it..wt do u think about september..my frends from leh were sayin now no point of coming everything is close and destroyed.thanks to your upload which is very informative.


  4. I was relieved having just read this from Becky Norman :

    “SECMOL Campus is safe and dry, nobody injured. The road is out, our drinking water pipe and pump from the Indus are gone, but we are able to wade across the now muddy treeless Taru stream and get spring water from the grassy area over there. Everyone and their families are safe. Former students Thakir and Dolkar Hemnya were lost. Today students went to Phyang and Taru to see if they can help. It sounds like there wasn’t so much rain south of the Indus, so I think Nun Kun might have seen rain but not flash floods. ” — Becky Norman 10 August 2010 on secmol facebook group


  5. I landed upon your blog while looking for info on the Manali-Leh route by bike. Your map of Leh and around arose my attention, since it is the most precise I’ve never seen in India. Which map is it, and where is it possible to purchase it ?

    Thanks in advance.


  6. The map excerpt is made from the classic US Army U502 series maps , and are the best available online – terrain is ok , roads etc are badly out of date . The best print maps are made by Olizane ( http://www.olizane.ch ) , and they have released a new 1:300 000 map map this year , covering all of Ladakh on a double sided map . Excellent stuff.

    ( Sorry for not answering earlier , but I was actually on the road. )



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