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Geologist caught in mudslide he predicted

CHANDIGARH: For Ritesh Arya, a geologist camping in Choglamsar village, his worst fears and predictions about Leh came true. He claims he had predicted a dangerous mudslide after his research on rocks in the area in 2006. What he couldn't anticipate was he would be right in the middle of it.

Speaking to TOI on phone from Leh, Arya, who was sleeping in a house in Choglamsar village when the entire area abruptly began to move, said: "This village is 6km from Leh on a hillock formed by mud itself. I woke up when I felt massive vibrations and found that the whole hill-side was moving." The loose soil had softened further due to torrential rains. "This is a rare geological phenomenon, and though landslides are common, mud creeps like this are unheard of," said Arya, who holds a Guinness Book of World Record for discovering ground water at an altitude of 11,000 ft in Ladakh.

Describing the sheer size of the mudslide, Arya said: "Its dimensions make it so scary: it was about 20meter high and several kilometers wide." All the houses coming in its way appeared to just dissolve into it as it roared on, destroying the Leh bus stand and the BSNL exchange, said Arya. The mudslide is believed to have travelled 6km, bulldozing the Choglamsar village. Arya said most roads have disappeared under the debris. The worst-hit are the heritage buildings and old houses, traditionally made of mud.

"'People were completely caught unawares. Then suddenly, everyone started scrambling as the enormous amount of loose mud and debris was unleashed. Those who survived in the Choglamsar village had to waded through five-ft high mudflow," said Arya. "There are bodies still buried in the debris and I found arms and legs sticking out at several places," he said.



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