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Kashmir hit by fatal flash floods

Rescuers are digging through crushed homes and piles of mud as they search for 400 people still missing after flash floods left 132 people dead in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Thousands of army, police and paramilitary soldiers were clearing roads to reach isolated villages in the Ladakh region cut off by Friday’s powerful thunderstorms, state police chief Kuldeep Khoda said.

Around 500 people who were injured were being treated at an army hospital and several makeshift clinics in and around Leh, the worst-hit town.

Officials said the missing people included 28 army soldiers.

About 2,000 foreign tourists were in Ladakh, a popular destination for adventure sports enthusiasts, when the storm hit on Friday, burying homes and toppling power and telecommunication towers. There were no reports of casualties among foreigners.

Authorities were arranging special flights to fly the tourists to New Delhi from Leh today.

Rescuers still had not reached about 5,000 people in Choglamsar, a village on Leh’s outskirts, because of mudslides blocking the road, police officer Nawang Tsering said.

Mohammed Deen Khan, a social activist who tried to reach the village on Saturday, said the mud was about 4.6m high in some places. He said authorities were facing a shortage of bulldozers and heavy earth movers.

About 100 stranded foreign tourists, mostly Europeans, were evacuated from Pang village north-east of Leh, army spokesman JS Brar said in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir.

August is peak tourist season in Ladakh, about 450km east of Srinagar. It is a high altitude desert with a stark moonscape-like terrain, and normally receives very little rain.

The deluge came as neighbouring Pakistan suffered its worst flooding in decades, with millions displaced and about 1,500 dead.

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