SITUATION REMAINS GRIM IN J&K, INFRASTRUCTURE DESTROYED, ARMY STEPS UP RELIEF OPERATIONS
Copy of J&K is facing its worst floods in the last 60 years
NEW DELHI: Communication lines are disrupted, the power system collapsed, with the central authorities unable to contact the civil administration in Jammu and Kashmir. The situation remains extremely grim in the state, with waters still showing little sign of receding with houses, roads, schools and hospitals all submerged and rescue operations by the Army now on a war footing.
The rains have stopped but the floodwaters continue to ravage the land and people. The deadliest floods in decades in J&K have left about 200 dead although the full figures are still not available , thousands stranded and lakhs affected.
In South Kashmir that was the worst hit, entire villages have been submerged with no information about the residents as yet. Over 2000 houses in the Jammu region have become uninhabitable due to partial or complete damage as the Jhelum and its tributaries continue to spill over. The rain waters moving with a high speed have breached the Barbar Shah bund in Srinagar in at least five places.
Experts say that the waters will recede, but slowly, however Srinagar and adjoining areas are not feeling any relief with the average level of the rain waters between between 8-15 feet in different areas. Jawahar Nagar and Rajbagh are the worst affected.
Even though the weather on Tuesday morning was dry in Jammu facilitating rescue operations by the Army and paramilitary forces, the waters continued to enter into areas like Qamarwari, Shaheed Gunj, Zainakadal and Kaksarai .
The roads, highways and bridges are deluged by the floodwaters making connectivity a major concern and a huge impediment in rescue operations. Nearly 1,500 trucks carrying essential supplies to Jammu and Kashmir were stranded on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway as sections of the road were washed away in the flash floods.
The most feasible route to reach the stranded people and rescue them is through air. On one hand, this air route is being extensively used for rescuing the marooned people,on the other basic supplies are being airlifted as well..
Nine fixed wing aeroplanes consisting IL-76, AN-32, C-130 and 29 helicopters have been pressed into service. The Union Home Ministry is also airlifting thousands of bottles of drinking water and blankets to Jammu and Kashmir.
Two additional units of Army and NDRF were also airdropped to Pancheri in Udhampur where 30 people are missing after a landslide hit the area.
For that matter, even the BSNL is airlifting new equipments from Jammu to Srinagar in order to restore mobile services partially.
Communication lines continue to remain disrupted with almost no connection at all with the affected people. The entire picture is evident in the way Anil Goswami, the Home Secretary put it when he said helplessly to reporters, "I simply cannot speak to anyone in J&K.”
The situation is so bad that even the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is not able to communicate with its own teams. NDRF Chief, OP Singh said “We are not able to communicate with our teams sent on the ground in flood-ravaged areas.” The Army cantonment in Srinagar is flooded with links snapped.
Further, the local television and radio stations in Valley remained off air and there was patchy telecom connectivity between the Valley and the rest of the country.
However, some efforts are on to improve the communication facility.
State-run BSNL launched an operation with the army and air force to re-establish mobile services through satellite network, though officials said it would take more than a week for full restoration.
Also, 90 towers of 3G telecom service have started functioning in Kashmir Valley while 10 VSAT systems are being airlifted to restore critical communication towers.
The government is trying to restore the power connection as well but not much is evident on the ground since there is a virtual black-out in most of the region.
The authorities are also planning to deploy heavy duty pumps to drain out flood water in some of the low lying areas in Srinagar city.
It must be mentioned here that the Army, along with the Indian Air Force, NDRF and even the naval marine commanders are working day and night, though the worsening conditions are making the relief operations quite difficult.
A total of 23 aircraft, 29 helicopters, 205 columns of Army and 244 boats are on the rescue job and 20 Marine commanders are deployed in Srinagar.
Over 23,000 people have been rescued, including 1,400 army personnel and their families caught in floodwaters at Srinagar’s Badami Bagh cantonment.
While 10,470 people have been rescued till now by the NDRF alone as over 150 boats and other critical equipment has been lowered down in the flood affected areas; 310 people were rescued by Chandigarh-based 12 Wing of the Indian Air Force, which has been conducting non-stop sorties during the past three days to evacuate people from flooded areas of Srinagar.
While the Prime Minister announced a central aid of Rs. 1000 crore for the state on Sunday after declaring these floods as a “national level calamity”, financial assistance seems to be pouring in from various states and the UN.
While the Maharashtra Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday announced an aid of Rs 10 crore from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund for the rescue and relief of Jammu and Kashmir flood victims, Jayalalitha, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister on Monday announced an assistance of Rs five crore along with any other required assistance.
Bihar, Odisha and Uttarakhand governments also lent financial assistances offering Rs 10 crore, 5 crore and 10 crores respectively. Also, the states further assured full support, in whichever way required, to Jammu and Kashmir.
Further, the UN system also stands ready to help governments in India and Pakistan in their efforts to provide relief and assistance to the hundreds impacted by the severe floods in Kashmir, a spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said today.