A sudden overnight downpour and flash floods killed more than 100 people and injured around 400 in the remote and mountainous Ladakh region of Indian Kashmir, police and the army said today.
The flooding also damaged telephone towers and the region's airport, army spokesman Lt Col JS Brar said in Srinagar.
The affected area is a high-altitude desert about 11,500 feet above sea level and it normally experiences very low precipitation.
"Mud and water is everywhere," said Kashmiri businessman Kausar Makhdoomi, who was on holiday in Leh, the region's main town.
He said the rainfall started before midnight and water later started coursing down the area's mountains in streams and rivulets. The flooding had damaged several homes and other buildings by today.
"There was utter confusion and people started to panic," he said.
Police, paramilitary troops and the army have launched a massive rescue operation in Leh, state police chief Kuldeep Khoda said.
Police later said soldiers had pulled 59 bodies from flood-hit areas around Leh, the main town in Ladakh.
State police chief Kuldeep Khoda said rescue efforts were being hampered by gushing water and debris.
Operations were halted at Leh airport after it was badly damaged by the flood waters, with parts of the runway washed away. Indian air force troopers were clearing the debris from the air strip, Mr Khoda said.
"At least 200 people are in the army hospital with injuries. And many more people are trapped under houses and buildings that have collapsed," he said.
The flooding also damaged telephone towers and highways leading to the region, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel JS Brar said in Srinagar, the main city in Kashmir, 280 miles west of Leh.
The affected area is a high-altitude desert about 11,500 feet above sea level, and it normally has very low precipitation.
Professor Shakeel Romshoo, a geologist at Srinagar University, said new rivulets had cut deep channels in the mountain gorges of the region and flood waters had inundated low-lying areas.
"It's a challenging topography with steep and unstable slopes. Water flow and velocity being very high, the flash floods have caused huge damage," he said.