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Indian trekking hub struggling a year after floods
by Staff Writers
Srinagar, India (AFP) Aug 5, 2011

One year after floods devastated an arid part of northwest India popular with foreign trekkers, claiming almost 200 lives, residents say the government has failed to deliver on pledges to help.

Thousands of visitors from India and elsewhere travel to the Himalayan region of Ladakh each year during July and August for trekking and rafting expeditions and to experience the area's ancient Buddhist culture.

Lying between the Kunlun mountains and the main Himalayas, Ladakh is the most sparsely populated region of Kashmir, and has barely been touched by the decades-old insurgency against Indian rule that has wracked the state's Muslim-majority region to the west.

Heavy rainfall is rare in the area, but the night of August 5-6 2010 saw the worst flash floods in 50 years, leaving nearly 200 people dead including six foreign trekkers and 26 Indian soldiers.

The downpour was so strong that it triggered cascades of water and rocks down the sides of the surrounding mountains.

The floods washed away an estimated 40 percent of the roads in the sparsely populated and remote region, including 29 bridges, and flattened more than 1,000 houses and buildings.

Locals in Ladakh have complained to AFP that promised state and federal financial support to help repair their homes and businesses has been slow to come.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was among a host of senior visitors, including Bollywood super star Aamir Khan, who went to the region after the deluge and announced funds to help with reconstruction.

Singh unveiled a federal relief package of 12.5 million rupees (267,000 dollars) and vowed that "all rehabilitation works will be completed within the next two-and-a-half months."

But Phounsing Dorjay, a member of a village council in Choglamsar, one of the worst-hit villages, said that "compensation money was being disbursed in installments and at a very slow pace".

"Restoration and rehabilitation is going on at snail's pace," complained Tsering Moto, a resident of Leh, the capital of the Ladakh region.

Abbas Ali, of Seyang village, one of the places flattened by rolling stones and mud, said: "The agricultural land that was covered by silt and mud in our area has not been reclaimed despite tall claims by the government.

"Even most of the houses have not been reconstructed," he said, adding that signs of devastation were still visible everywhere.

The state minister for relief and rehabilitation denied the allegations of slow reconstruction.

"The rehabilitation process in Ladakh is almost complete," Raman Bhalla told AFP. "There has been some delay in some areas because of the weather but we are taking care of that."

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S. Korea offers N. Korea flood aid
Seoul (AFP) Aug 3, 2011
South Korea offered aid worth 5 billion won ($4.7 million) to flood-hit North Korea on Wednesday, its first such proposal since Pyongyang's deadly island attack last November sent relations into deep freeze. The North, which even in normal times struggles to feed its people, has reported dozens of casualties, thousands homeless and large areas of farmland flooded following a storm and torren ... read more

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