JEHANGIR ALI | 7 APRIL, 2017
Rains and Snowfall Claim 4 Lives In Kashmir
SRINAGAR: At least four persons were killed and two more were reported missing as incessant rain and snowfall inundated parts of Kashmir Valley, exposing the scars of the devastating 2014 flood and the ill-preparedness of authorities to prevent such an eventuality from making a comeback.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti over the flood situation in the state and offered the Centre's assistance. "Spoke to J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti on the flood situation in the state. Offered all possible support from Centre in dealing with the situation," PM Modi said in a tweet.
Educational institutions have been closed for three days and all exams scheduled today have been postponed with the inclement weather also forcing the closure of the Srinagar-Jammu and Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highways as also many important state highways due to landslides and avalanches.
Steady rain over the last two days, combined with snowfall on Thursday, inundated many parts of the Valley with the summer capital Srinagar, a low-lying city with a poor drainage system, bearing the brunt as water entered many localities, including homes of some of the residents in north and central city.
With horrifying memories of 2014 on the back of their minds, shopkeepers and traders in the city centre Lal Chowk were seen taking out products from their shops and business establishments to safer places as many shops and offices didn't open on Thursday.
"About 50℅ shopkeepers of Lalchowk have ferried their goods to safety in anticipation of floods. The other half is on their toes praying for the roaring Jhelum to calm down," Nadeem Shah wrote on Facebook with pictures of late evening evacuation by shopkeepers.
Officials said a man was killed in north Kashmir due to electrocution by a live wire that had snapped and lay in a pool of water. In south Kashmir, two persons went missing while six others were rescued after rain water and flash flood nearly washed away a passenger car into a river.
The meteorological department has predicted 'significant improvement' in weather from today but incessant rains and rising water level in Jhelum river that breached the flood declaration mark on Thursday evening, continued to scare people who are yet to come out of the trauma of 2014 flood.
Known for standing up against all odds, many Kashmiris updated humourous posts on social media, blaming "tight jeans" and "scooty-driving girls" for rising water level in Jhelum, a sly reference used by some people, and rejected by huge majority, to explain the large scale devastation caused by 2014 flood.
"Damn you girl with tight jeans and the birthday dog in rajbagh (Srinagar)," a Facebook user posted. "The dog in search of birthday cake!" Jamsheed Rasool, another user, said. Mega celebration of the birthday of dog by a family in an upscale locality in Srinagar was also blamed for 2014 flood.
The threat of flood also sparked concern and criticism of the state government by wary residents on social media who accused the authorities of neglecting the process of dredging of Jhelum river whose carrying capacity was significantly reduced by the disaster of 2014, despite repeated warnings.
According to sources, the process of dredging, which would have opened up the bosom of Jhelum and thereby expanded its carrying capacity, has been going on at a "pathetic pace" allegedly due to an inexperienced contractor from Kolkata bagging the dredging contract.
"The contractor has no experience in dredging and the company has literally brought old, worn-out machines to give an impression that the work is on while the fact is that not even half of the work has been completed in last two years," sources told The Citizen. "This is a wake-up call for all of us".
Police and even the Army was pressed into rescue operations with the government ordering residents living along the banks of Jhelum to move to higher ground while a vigil has been set up to check out for any sign of breach along the embankment.
(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)