Aug 5 and we all wake up talking about the horrendous storm that coursed through the entire night. And then the real news emerged, whole villages had been swept away by what turned out to be a nightmare of flash floods with so many lives lost in minutes. Being so close to a natural disaster, to feel that one’s life is in jeopardy quickly brings home how vulnerable and precious life really is. This calamity brought about a disaster which was beyond the imagination of the local people damaging properties, destroying basic infrastructure which will take months to re-build. More than 200 people died, more than 800 people are still missing with over 500 injured and the aftermath has left many children orphaned and homeless.
Only a few days before the flash floods had erupted I had moved to a village called Stok, 40 minutes from Leh to live with a local Ladakhi family and immerse myself in local village life. Little did I know at that time that this would be a blessing saving me from harm and the immediate shock from what was to follow.
We all needed to see that consequences and help wherever possible. I saw with my own eyes the extent of devastation – it was horrific. Choglamsar, a village just on the outskirts of Leh was completely wiped out, I just could not recognise the place any longer. What used to be a parade of shops were now packed solid with mud and debris, cars and buses thrusted into buildings as if they were crumpled pieces of paper. The power and force of this flash flood was unmistakable. Those who were caught in the eye of this storm had no chance of survival. Many lives were taken, immeasurable damage was done where entire villages (current figure is 20 villages effected) were decimated, and survivors displaced to live in emergency relief sites around Leh.
It was extraordinary to witness what happened within the days that followed the flash flood. The people who had survived and those able to help did not catastrophise over the situation. What they did do was bring love and compassion into action through helping fellow Ladakhi’s in a practical sense; clean out their homes packed full of mud, make them food, bring them clothes and essential medicines. Together they started to salvage and care for life that remained.
Around Leh, many organisations alongside the Indian Government are focused on supporting the process of rehabilitation and restoring normality. There is also news that the Government will pay to re-house those who lost everything. I sincerely hope this is a reality before the harsh Ladakhi winter sets in as the Ladakhi people are some of the most warm-hearted, resilient and generous I have ever had the pleasure to be with.
Please dig deep & donate with love and compassion –
For Immediate flood relief & long-term rehabilitation (Housing, livestock, water). Follow link below to individual orgs –