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Floods may wash away "good' tourist season

Geeta Gupta, Indian Express (New Delhi, 6 August 2010) download article in PDF format - Flash floods in Leh that killed 115 people have got travel agents in Delhi worried. Not only are several Indian and foreign tourists stranded, the disaster is feared to badly affect the good tourist season that lasts only till September.

"A lot of tourists are stuck in Leh and Ladakh, and all communication channels are down... August is the peak tourist season for visit to the Himalayan region (and the tragedy will affect it)," said President of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, Vijay Thakur. Though he did not give the exact number, Thakur said there have been "major cancellations for next week, at least."

The stranded tourists, however, are believed to be safe. "A lot of Indians as well as foreign tourists are stranded here, but we believe they are safe. The hotels and the guesthouses, though affected by the floods, are still safe," said Lorapa, a Buddhist monk at Hemis Monastery, whom The Indian Express spoke with on phone late Friday eveyning.

In Delhi, Pooja Sharma, a resident of Sarojini Nagar, is worried. She has not been able to reach any of her six friends believed to be stranded in Leh. "They were travelling from Manali to Leh. There has been no communication from them for the past two days.... We have no idea whether they have reached Leh or are stuck somewhere midway," she said.

Though the runway at Leh airport was cleared of mud and stones by the evening, all flights from Delhi to the town were cancelled. Air India has cancelled Saturday's flights also, but Kingfisher Airlines said they woud fly as scheduled. Jet Airways would also operate three flights.

Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the Hemis Monastery, who arrived in Delhi from Kathmandu, could not fly to Leh. "As far as I can remember, this is the first time Ladakh has witnessed a cloudburst, and this is probably a result of global warming,"Drukpa said.