Miracle toddler Dilden Angmo’s magical survival story lifted, if only briefly, the gloom after Thursday night’s savage cloudbursts in Leh that killed scores, sent hundreds missing and uprooted thousands more.
Two-year-old Angmo is now the champion of hope in the devastated city of Leh. A gritty fighter, she braved nature’s fury all on her own to be finally reunited a day later with her mother, Psering Dolma. Separated from her mother at the time of the flash floods, Angmo eventually escaped death after what would have been her very own heroic nightlong battle against the swirling waters.
Even as survivors continue to hunt for their loved ones, the baby was reunited with her mother on Saturday after being found by a man from her village. She was badly injured and weak, but she had lived through the worst.
Here is Angmo’s story of triumph. The only child of her parents, she was swept away in the rising waters right in front of her mother’s eyes when the flash floods hit Choglamsar late on Thursday. Rescuers say this village on the outskirts of Leh could be the worst affected by the calamity. Dolma remembers the heartrending moment when her little daughter was wrenched from her. “I tried holding on to her tightly, but the water gushed in with tremendous force. She was swept away in no time,” said Dolma as she lay next to her daughter at the Army Hospital in Leh on Sunday. The mother, who is also among the injured, had feared the worst for her child. But, the toddler was a fighter.
Angmo’s relatives said the flood struck shortly after midnight and the child was found in the morning in the same village, at least seven hours after she was separated from her mother. The two-year-old miraculously survived the floods and was discovered floating in the water by a local of Choglamsar. She was immediately rushed to the Army Hospital in Leh in critical condition.
There is another battle ahead of her. Angmo has hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature from floating in the flood waters the entire night. She also suffered several lacerations on her face. “She had several cuts on her face and she was shivering. Her movements were slow and laboured and her lips, ears, fingers and toes had become pale,” said a doctor at the Army hospital. With a lot of mud having gone into her eyes she is still unable to open them.
“The child was found with no clothes on. A passer by noticed her and brought her here. We revived the child,” said Colonel Anurag Khanna, commanding officer of the Army Hospital. Doctors treating her said she has septicemia too but she was stable and they are determined not to let this survival story end in tragedy.
It was a stroke of luck that helped her family trace Angmo. On Saturday, she was spotted at the Army Hospital by her uncle who had been searching for her in Leh’s three major hospitals where most of the victims of the flash floods are admitted. Not wanting to take a chance, the hospital authorities asked him to bring Angmo’s mother there to ensure the child really belonged to his family. Dolma had suffered head injuries and was being treated at the Indo Tibetan Border Police hospital, nearly five kilometres away from the Army Hospital. When Angmo’s uncle went there with the story of the baby’s survival, Dolma was transferred to the Army Hospital the same day.
Even though Angmo couldn’t open her eyes and see her mother, she recognised her voice and touch almost immediately. Her response was good enough for the hospital authorities to reunite her with her mother.
But not everyone in Leh is as lucky as baby girl’s family. The flash floods have killed over 200 people and left hundreds bereaved. Many survivors are still searching for their loved ones. Rescuers and villagers say Choglamsar has been flattened with no trace of settlement, and houses buried in silt and slush.
Sharda, who just goes by her first name, is admitted at the Army Hospital with stitches in her mouth. She still has no information about her two missing children. “I can’t remember their names. I can’t recall what happened after the flood struck. It was so horrifying. I don’t know where to go,” said Sharda, who doctors say is suffering from partial memory loss because of shock.
Meanwhile, there is one more joyful reunion ahead for Angmo and Dolma. The little girl’s father, who works with Ladakh Scouts and is currently posted at Siachen Glacier, was unaware of the flash floods till Saturday. He was on his way back to Choglamsar late Sunday to reunite with his family, a journey that is likely to take him up to a week. Access roads from Manali and Srinagar were damaged in the flash floods. But, the family is waiting eagerly for him.