JAMMU AND KASHMIR RAVAGED, RELIEF OPERATIONS GAIN PACE BUT THREAT OF RAIN LOOMS LARGE
Lal Chowk in Srinagar
NEW DELHI: With the death toll rising to 170, the flood situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is still extremely serious with a heavy rain alert being issued yet again.
The rain waters have ravaged the land, with the extent of the damage still not know. Entire villages in South Kashmir that has been the worst hit have been submerged, with torrential rain preventing the Army rescue operations in the initial and crucial stages.
In Srinagar residents had to climb upto the terraces and rooftops, struggling to cope without flood warnings or intimation of any sort. Thousands of people are now homeless and unknown numbers marooned. Army boats have capsized during rescue operations, and soldiers also stranded and unable to move out of hard hit colonies while trying to rescue the residents in day and night operations.
The floods have affected a total of about 2600 villages impacting lakhs of people.
The deluge has also triggered landslides all over the state blocking the roads, highways and bridges- completely inhibiting any movement, even hindering relief operations.
Since all routes to the state are literally cut-off, the J&K government is facing shortage of not just motor boats but even medicines, blankets and tents. On Monday morning, boats were airlifted to the Kashmir valley along with blankets and medicines in AN-32 plane.
These deathly waters have not only engulfed houses or roads, but even the hospitals and military bases are inundated with water. South Kashmir’s Anantnag and Kulgam districts are the worst affected. Srinagar, the capital is flooded too, as are the Rajouri and Udhampur districts in the Jammu region. North Kashmir’s Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara districts are under water as well.
State chief minister Omar Abdullah , with respect to the current situation said “The water level is decreasing in Jammu ... while the situation in Kashmir has worsened. In many areas, the ground floors are inundated with flood waters”. This was putting it mildly as the residents told The Citizen that the waters had submerged even two storey buildings.
To make matters worse even the power supply has been disrupted all over the state. The floods have caused extensive damage to the power infrastructure destructing 750 power distribution transformers, 13500 poles and about two dozen transmission towers in J&K.
All communication lines are down. The telephones have stopped working including the BSNL landline services, the mobile communication, even the police wireless system that has collapsed across the state. The government agencies and departments are not in contact with each other, with the communication system totally disrupted.
The police has also mentioned that the flood waters have washed away hundreds of LPG cylinders from the LPG filling plants at Pampore which is at the banks of Jhelum. Food, drinking water have already become a major issue along with medicines and medical care.
The Army and the Indian Air Force rescue operations are in full swing, although slow and difficult..The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said on Sunday that it had rescued almost 4000 people.
Haj flights scheduled up to September 12 have been postponed and all schools and colleges have been closed till September 12.
In a latest development, the Vaishnodevi yatra which was suspended following a landslide that injured pilgrims, has now resumed.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited the state yesterday announced a central aid of Rs. 1000 crore for the state. "I would like to assure the people of the state that it is not their crisis alone. It is a crisis for the whole country," he said, terming the deluge as a “national level calamity”.
It is rather ironical that these floods have been declared a national disaster only now after the Prime Minister visited the state. In reality, it has almost been a week of heavy, ceaseless rains with locals warning about the rising waters over and over again. The state authorities took up the call later, but when the dams breached and the waters gushed in with a roar all were taken unawares with the extent of damage still not known.