SRINAGAR, India – SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Authorities stepped up rescue efforts as the weather improved Saturday, a day after flash floods sent rivers of mud down desert mountainsides in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing at least 130 people and injuring 400 others, officials said.
As the rain stopped in the morning, thousands of army, police and paramilitary soldiers cleared roads and the debris from flattened homes in the remote Himalayan region of Ladakh, said Kausar Makhdoomi, a businessman in the area. The airport and some food stores reopened.
Thousands of people in low-lying areas of Leh, the region's main town, moved to higher ground and spent the night out in the open, Makhdoomi said.
The floods also severely damaged the town's main state-run hospital, forcing authorities to shift patients to a nearby army hospital, said Nawang Tsering, a local police officer.
Twenty-seven more bodies were recovered from collapsed homes, state police Chief Kuldeep Khoda said. Rescuers had found 103 bodies on Friday.
Officials gave no figures for missing people, but said they included 28 soldiers.
Nearly 2,000 foreign tourists were in Ladakh, a popular destination for adventure sports enthusiasts, when a rare powerful thunderstorm triggered floods and mudslides on Friday, burying homes and toppling power and telecommunication towers. There were no immediate reports of casualties among foreigners.
Gushing waters swept away houses, cars and buses in a 60-square mile (150-square kilometer) swath in and around the town, Khoda said.
Police and soldiers rescued more than 150 people, including 100 foreign tourists, mostly Europeans, stranded in Pang village northeast of Leh, army spokesman Lt. Col. J.S. Brar said in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir.
But they were still unable to reach about 5,000 people living in Choglamsar, a village on Leh's outskirts, because of mudslides that were blocking the road, Tsering said.
Mohammed Deen Khan, a social activist who tried to reach the village, said the mud was about 15 feet (4.5 meters) high in some places.
Leh residents, police, paramilitary and army soldiers helped pull people out of deep mud and damaged homes, but rescue efforts were hampered by fast-moving water and debris, Khoda said. At least three policemen had been killed during the rescue operations, he said.
Ian Minns, a 53-year-old Australian tourist, said a big wave of water, rocks and mud came down from the hills.
"Buddhist monks, civilians and quite a few foreign tourists are helping officials in rescue operations. It's a great community effort," he said.
"Mud and rocks are everywhere, though most of water in Leh town has gone down," he told The Associated Press.
August is peak tourist season in Ladakh, about 280 miles (450 kilometers) east of Srinagar. It is a high-altitude desert with a stark moonscape-like terrain, and normally sees very little rain.
The deluge came as neighboring Pakistan suffered its worst flooding in decades, with millions displaced and about 1,500 dead.
Khoda said at least 2,000 displaced people had been housed in two government-run shelters.
The floods damaged highways leading to Leh, making it difficult for trucks with relief supplies to enter Ladakh and for tourists to leave.
Prof. Shakeel Romshoo, a geologist at Kashmir University in Srinagar, said the heavy rains had cut deep new channels in the mountain gorges of the region.
"It's a challenging topography with steep and unstable slopes. Water flow and velocity being very high, the flash floods have caused huge damage," he said.