Foreign tourists rescued from India's flooded Ladakh
By Ashok Pahalwan
JAMMU, India (Reuters) - Indian military helicopters Monday plucked about 150 foreign tourists to safety in the Himalayan region of Ladakh where flash floods have killed 156 people.
At least 300 people remained missing from last week's floods triggered by heavy rains that destroyed homes, uprooted telephone towers and deposited boulders and mud up to 15 feet high on highways, cutting road links with the rest of India.
The remote region borders Pakistan, beset by the worst floods in 80 years which have killed over 1,600 people and left at least two million homeless.
"We have airlifted all 150 foreign tourists from Zanskar valley near Leh, where they were stranded for three days," Priya Joshi, air force spokeswoman, said. About 160 people, mostly foreigners, were awaiting evacuation in the remote areas of Lama Yuru and Karu.
At least 25,000 people have been affected by the floods, army officials said. Some 7,000 soldiers were deployed to rebuild roads and bridges. Some 33 soldiers were also feared swept away in the floods that hit the Ladakh region Friday.
Thousands of tourists travel to Ladakh every year to visit old Buddhist monasteries and for adventure sports such as white water rafting.
"It will take a lot of time and effort to restore the communication network," said Indian army brigadier Sanjay Chawla.
In Leh, the main Buddhist town located at an altitude of 3,505 meters (11,499 feet) in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, health officials were struggling to treat the injured in the civilian hospital, which was also badly damaged by the floods.
(Writing and additional reporting by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Sanjeev Miglani)
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