WORST EVER FLOODS IN 60 YEARS IN J&K, ARMY TO THE RESCUE AS WATERS CONTINUE TO RISE
Army soldiers wading through the waters in Srinagar to rescue trapped residents
NEW DELHI : Jammu and Kashmir is facing its worst floods in 60 years. The ceaseless pouring has exacerbated the deluge leaving 160 dead at first count, thousands stranded and homeless, with lakhs being impacted by the torrential waters.
Affecting a staggering 2600 villages, the devastating floods have engulfed houses, hospitals, bridges cutting off connectivity. South Kashmir is the worst affected with the residents virtually marooned; Srinagar is under water flowing up to the second storeys of buildings; Jammu city has been cut off from Pathankot after the authorities had to close down three important bridges on the River Tawi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally visited the state to oversee the extent of damage and give instructions for intensifying rescue operations. The Kashmiri’s are in total panic with the local Army Corps and the state government resources being too little to handle the calamity, and the centre showing little interest till now. Jammu and Kashmir government as well as opposition parties have been urging the centre to declare it a national disaster.
The rivers are all swirling over the danger marks. While the Jhelum has crossed the record 23-feet mark at Ram Munshi Bagh—five feet above the danger mark, the water level at Sangam in Anantnag has been recorded at over 33 feet. Chenab is flowing at 38 feet which is 4 ft above the danger mark while the Tawi is flowing at 13.5 feet against danger mark of 17 feet with a discharge of 92000 cusecs.
The Vaishnodevi yatra has been suspended after landslides injured many pilgrims, the highways, including the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway are closed down.
The situation is so grim and the floods so destructive that these have been compared to the Kedarnath tragedy of Uttarakhand by Omar Abdullah. Drawing parallel between the two, the Chief Minister today hoped that his government will be able to keep the death toll less by more efficient rescue operations.
He told the media “By giving such a name of Kedarnath tragedy-2 your tickers run fast, but the situation is like that. There was loss due to rains and here was also loss due to rains. That state has faced such a situation and this state is facing such a situation.”
However, he added, “there were more deaths there than here”.
All in all, Jammu and Kashmir is completely crippled by these devastating floods with life having come to a halt.
There have been rounds of ‘situation reviews’ by various ministers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in J&K this morning and reviewed the flood situation in Jammu region at a high-level meeting attended by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and top officials.In the meeting, which was held at Jammu's Technical Airport, Abdllah briefed him about the destruction caused by the floods.
Yesterday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had visited Srinagar and met with the Chief Minister in order to take a stock of the situation. The inclement weather,however, did not allow him to take an aerial survey.
Abdullah himself drove the Home Minister, who was accompanied by Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh, through the Srinagar city.
“The floods have caused a lot of damage. If this is the condition of city, what will be the situation in rural areas. I was told that this has happened after 50-60 years,” said Rajnath Singh, who assured the Abdullah that the Centre will stand firmly behind the state government at this crucial hour.
Stating that an inter-ministerial team will be sent to assess the damage in the state and that J&K can use Rs 1,100 crore of State Disaster Relief Fund to deal with the calamity, the Home Minister said “ No politics should be played at this hour. After the water recedes, an inter-ministerial team will be sent to assess the damage. The PM has given Rs two lakh to the kin of every person killed in the floods. I have told the state government to utilise Rs 1,100 crore of State Disaster Relief Fund which has 90 percent of grant from the Centre”.
Earlier, the Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the Jammu and Kashmir floods a “national calamity”.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha spoke to PM Modi over the phone demanding immediate steps so that the stranded people are shifted to safer places more efficiently and effectively.
Further, he pressed that the floods be declared a national calamity.
The PM assured all possible help to the state in this hour of crisis after Azad, a former J&K chief minister, spoke to the PM and sought his personal attention in view of the “very grave and grim situation” prevailing in the entire state.
Even the Congress President Sonia Gandhi has urged the Centre to declare the crisis a "national calamity" while expressing grave concern over the J&K floods.
The role played by the Army is laudable and worth mentioning.
The Indian Army has pressed 103 columns into service to help in rescue and relief of the people affected by the crisis . "A total of 11,000 civilians have been rescued so far. Out of these 2000 civilians have been provided food and temporary shelters," said Colonel SD Goswami, defence spokesman at Northern Command headquarters.
At least nine army personnel including an officer were trapped in strong water current as their boat capsized during a rescue operation in Pulwama district (where River Jhelum has breached embankment prompting authorities to issue a red alert for people living in low lying areas of South Srinagar).
Seven of them were later rescued from flood waters in Pulwama district but two soldiers still couldn’t be traced.
“Despite facing dangers to personal safety, the Army personnel are out there to provide relief to the civilian population of Kashmir”, an army official said.
Along with the Army, the Air Force is also helping in whatever way they can in the relief operations.
“Operation Megh Rahat in Jammu and Operation Sahayata launched by Army in Jammu and Kashmir regions has moved on to next phase where Army plans extensive deployment in support of flood relief,” Defence Spokesman Col SD Goswami said.
On the other hand, many stories from various areas have come which talked about how the people themselves are supporting each other, for, there is a lack of help from the authorities- be it Barzulla in Srinagar or the Potha and Shankar Nagar mohalla of Poonch.
For instance, the residents of Barzulla pooled in money and hired a JCB to notch the embankment in a bid to tackle flood and save their area from getting submerged. The residents alleged that they kept sending SOS messages but didn’t receive any help from the administration.
The rains have ceased in Jammu but the situation is still grave. The pouring, however, is continuing in Kashmir, though, it seems that it will soon stop.
Sonam Lotus, the Director of local Meteorological Department has given a ray of hope. He said that the weather is likely to improve from today. “The rain system over Kashmir has weakened. The weather is likely to improve in Kashmir from Sunday while light to moderate rain is expected in some places,” he said.
All contact lines were snapped with The Citizen received calls from panicking Kashmiris, reporting in one case that two storeys of the children’s hospital in Srinagar was under water. Several called from outside the state to ask for help in tracing their families with whom all contact had been lost. The chaos was visible when even the Army found many of its soldiers marooned in a locality in Srinagar itself even as the soldiers went house to house, locality to locality to rescue trapped and terrified residents.