Five Europeans among 177 dead in Indian Himalayan floods
Five European tourists, including three French nationals, were among 177 people killed in huge floods in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, an Indian official said Tuesday.
Hundreds of people are also missing after sudden rains caused flash floods Friday that swept away roads, houses, bridges and power cables.
"I can confirm to you that five foreign (European) tourists are among the dead," Aamir Ali, a government disaster management official, told AFP, adding the other two European victims were Spanish and Italian.
They are the first known European deaths in the disaster in the remote region popular as an adventure sports destination.
Other foreigners among the dead were 16 Nepali labourers and one Tibetan refugee.
Nearby Indian Kashmir is in the grip of a Muslim insurgency but Buddhist-dominated Ladakh with its mountains, rivers and monasteries has not been touched by unrest and is popular with tourists.
The announcement of the latest deaths came as soldiers and emergency relief teams sifted through flattened homes in the search for bodies in Leh, the region's main town.
"Some 150 bodies have been identified and their cremation and burials are on," a police officer in Leh said, asking not to be named. "We are taking photographs of 15 bodies which have not been identified to keep a record."
The police officer said rescuers feared hundreds more people may have died after being swept away or buried by waves of rock and mud.
An army statement said work has focused on the swamped village of Choglamsar on the outskirts of Leh, but progress in recovering bodies has been slow.
Among those feared dead are 26 Indian soldiers stationed at a small army post on the de facto border with Pakistan.
The Indian air force has been flying in aid, doctors and engineers to Ladakh.
Officials in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, said most of Leh's electricity supply should be restored by the end of Tuesday as the area struggles to get back to normality.
Roads are blocked due to landslides and officials said it would take at least one more week to restore the Srinagar-Leh route as army engineers repair bridges and damaged stretches of road.
Ladakh is a highly militarised area because of border disputes with both Pakistan and China.
Leh, situated in an arid mountain desert at an altitude of 3,505 metres (11,500 feet), receives virtually no rainfall all year and has no planned drainage system.
The floods came as neighbouring Pakistan suffered the worst flooding in its history with 14 million people affected and at least 1,600 people killed.
© 2010 AFP