Flash Floods in Ladakh and Baltistan
These popular trekking areas that are the homes to our porters need your help and they need it soon.
At the end of September we sent out £7000 to cover basic winter survival requirements but more is needed.
The flooding caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains in the Northern Areas of Pakistan has been widely described in the news in August. However, the relatively localised disaster that occurred in the popular trekking base of Leh, the capital of Ladakh, in Northern India, has gone largely unreported. A series of devastating flash floods at the start of August ravaged Leh town and adjoining areas, with hundreds of lives lost (most unaccounted) and entire family generations wiped out. The survivors are homeless and many whose houses are still intact have lost all their agricultural land. At the same time, just over the border in northern Pakistan, many of the villages in the Khaplu and Skardu area (home to most of our porters) were also hit by effectively the same storms.
Whilst there have been many recent appeals from disasters around the world, we feel that the suffering of the people of Ladakh and Baltistan has been overlooked. In both countries our local agents are at the sharp end of trying to help supply some emergency relief before winter sets in. But, time is running out!
Response update for end of September
We have had a great response to our flood appeal already, raising over £7000 which has been split between the two areas and sent out last week. For more information on each project see each section below:
We still need help with either the Ladakh or Baltistan appeal, so please donate via the Juniper Trust Charity website. Any amount will help. Just £5 will buy a winter jacket in Pakistan or £1 will feed and give shelter to one person per day in India!
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When you donate via the Juniper Trust you can choose which appeal you would prefer to support.
In Ladakh, Motup ...... who runs Rimo Expeditions sent us the following email early in September....
This is regarding the recent series of flash floods that occurred on 4th and 5th of August in Ladakh causing natural disaster of such magnitude that has never happened in the history of Ladakh. Hundreds of lives were lost (most unaccounted) entire family generation have been wiped out. The survivors are homeless and many whose houses are still intact have lost all their agricultural land. Immediately after the disaster several NGO's arrived in Leh and there has been lots of distribution of food, blankets, tents, medicines, clothing, utensils etc in the relief camps within the Leh Valley. The air force and the army airdropped food, clothing, medicines, kitchen utensil to several affected remote villages.
It is now about three weeks since the disaster occurred, and there is now an eerie silence in the affected areas.
The affected people are still trying to come to terms with their loss. The biggest challenge now lies in rehabilitation of these people before the long harsh winter months, which arrives within few weeks from now.
We at Rimo Expeditions have taken up this long term challenge and have adopted the villages of Kaya, Skiu, Shingo in the Markha Valley and Sumdo Chenmo, mainly because, several of our horsemen and staff belongs to these villages and the fact that due to the distance from road head not much relief has reached there. The people from these villages despite the tragic situation provided food and shelter to almost 150 stranded trekkers from the 5th of August to 10th August until they were rescued by helicopters.
The immediate need is to rebuild the irrigation canal to restore cultivable land and rehabilitate the displaced villagers.
On 26th August, we have sent all the necessary tools, ration, clothing and blankets to the villagers so that they can immediately start the rebuilding of the irrigation canal and clearing their land before the long harsh winter arrives.
As this is a very long term commitment to the people of these villages, we at Rimo Expeditions would welcome all the help and support in bringing back that normalcy to these affected people.
Our boys have gone with relief material, we will be sending pictures very soon.
This email from Motup will hopefully paint a clear picture of the situation. The town of Leh seems to be receiving a significant amount of aid, but the outlying villages, especially those in the popular trekking area of the Markha Valley are still suffering. The onset of winter is the real threat and we believe that the only way aid will get through in time for villages such as those mentioned by Motup (Kaya, Skiu, Shingo, Sumdo Chenmo) is if it is channelled through local businesses such as Rimo Expeditions. When we informed Rimo that we were sending £3500 at the end of September, they updated us on the situation:
“As of now, irrigation canals have been built with the material we sent out - spades, shovels, cement, etc. Ration was bought and sent out for the villagers. Some of the villagers have shifted to Leh to stay in rented homes for the winter until they can rebuild their homes next year and the funds would be used for the rebuilding of the homes. The village headmen have not returned from the villages as yet with their list affected people and ration that will be required to sustain them over the winter months as all food supplies will have to be stocked now as this winter a shortage of food is expected as the shops were not able to stock up due to constant Srinagar bandhs as well as the poor condition of the Manali roads and heavy vehicles not being able to ply.
Motup has arranged for the affected families to live with other families over the winters and provide food and a supplementary rent to the host families as building works cannot take place this year.
What we had worked out with the host families is to pay them Rs50/- to Rs.75/- per person per day for food and especially fuel over the winters. So £3500/- would feed and give shelter to 50 people for 4 months. So people donating £1/- would feed and give shelter to 1 person per day.
Our original target for Ladakh was to raise £5000, and already we are close and the funds are making a real difference to the lives of these unfortunate people this winter.
A similar situation has been ongoing in the remote northern region of Baltistan in northern Pakistan and we have had many telephone conversations directly to the village of Khaplu which is the home of our local agents, Mohammed Iqbal and his son Zafar - of Baltistan Tours. This remote area does not have access to email, but they have described their problems in great detail.
The floods in Pakistan are still headlines news every day and it is obvious that this fantastic country is having immense problems in coping with their tragedy. The government and aid agencies are finding it hard enough getting help to the flood stricken plains of southern and central Pakistan and in truth Baltistan in the far north of Pakistan is left to fend for itself.
The same freak weather which caused the flash floods in Ladakh, also greatly affected the mountain villages just across the border in the Ghanche district of Baltistan. Probably the village damaged most by the floods was Talis in the Masherbrum district. This tiny settlement is home to many of the porters who accompany KE groups on our K2 and Gondoro La treks.
The facts from Talis are: 13 deaths, 16 injured, 28 homes completely destroyed, 49 homes partially destroyed, 77 households affected, involving 616 people, 50 cattle lost, 68,000 kg of crops damaged and a huge amount of agricultural land damaged. In total in the whole Ghanche and Skardu districts, 461 households were affected, involving 3656 people.
We would like to at least look after the village of Talis and have estimated that we need:
| 77 tents @ Pak Rupees 7000 per tent ||Rs 539,000.00|
| 616 winter jackets @ Rs 600 per jacket ||Rs 369,600.00|
| Transportation ||Rs 15,000.00|
Mohammed Iqbal has already been up to this area and distributed whatever goods he could purchase locally. But, as in Ladakh, these villages will have to survive the coming winter before they can think about rebuilding their lives.
When we informed Baltistan Tours that we were sending them £3500 towards the funds needed for Talis they told us that all tents and assorted sizes of jackets would be purchased immediately from Lahore and should be with the inhabitants within a fortnight. Not a bad effort as the as the journey up the Karakoram Highway alone is taking up to a week during these months. We are looking forward to showing you some pictures in our next update.