SRINAGAR: At least 60 people have been killed and hundreds injured after heavy rain triggered flash floods in Leh, the main town in India Kashmir`s high-altitude Ladakh region, officials said Friday.
The floods tore though the town and surrounding villages without warning during the night when most residents were asleep, damaging homes and government buildings.
"So far we have some 60 dead," Kashmir Tourism Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora told AFP from Leh.
Jora said the death toll was likely to rise "significantly" with dozens still missing in Leh and rescue workers unable to reach some of the affected districts nearby.
At least 200 people were reported injured.
"The devastation is unprecedented," Jora said, adding that the military had been called in to help with the relief efforts.
The Indian army has a large presence in Ladakh which shares a sensitive border with neighbouring China.
The mountainous, Buddhist-dominated region, sitting in the southeastern part of Muslim-majority Kashmir, is popular with foreign adventure tourists interested in Himalayan trekking and river-running.
Some 3,500 metres (11,500 feet) above sea level, Leh is surrounded by high-altitude desert and heavy rainfall is uncommon.
The town was effectively cut off, with the flood waters washing away sections of the main highways to the popular backpacker destination of Manali and the Kashmiri summer capital, Srinagar.
"So far, we have no reports of any tourists among the dead, but some are stranded on the Leh-Manali road. The army has sent rescue teams there," Jora said.
A police spokesman said Leh airport had also been damaged, stopping all incoming and outgoing flights.
BDST: 13:12 HRS, August 05, 2010