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J&K floods: Worst flood in 60 years claims 150 lives in J&K; PM Modi calls it a ‘national disaster’, IAF intensifies relief operations

The state is facing the worst floods in the last 60 years. Over 11,000 people have been rescued so far.

By: Press Trust of India Written by Arun Sharma , Mir Ehsan | Jammu | Updated: September 8, 2014 10:51 am
An aerial view of the banks of the Tawi River that was damaged in the floods on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Sunday, Sept.7, 2014. (Source: AP) An aerial view of the banks of the Tawi River that was damaged in the floods on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Sunday, Sept.7, 2014. (Source: AP)

Even as it finally stopped raining on Sunday, after five days of continuous downpour, reports of more deaths and destruction poured in from across the state. More than 150 people are reported to have died in the last six days, while thousands are stranded.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held a high-level meeting with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and top officials soon after arriving in Jammu on Sunday, announced an additional special assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for the state. Describing it as a “national level disaster”, he said, “More assistance will be provided, if required, after a proper survey of the situation has been made.”

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The PM and CM later conducted an aerial survey of the flood-affected areas in the Valley. In Srinagar, Modi said Rs 5 crore would be provided from the PM’s relief fund for the flood-affected people.

The Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have intensified relief operations. According to the Udhampur-based Defence Ministry spokesman, Colonel S D Goswami, the IAF had pressed into service 29 planes and helicopters including one C-17 Globemaster, three IL 76 aircraft and boats for relief and rescue operations.

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A total of 850 personnel have been airlifted to the flood-hit areas of the state, he said, adding that three C-130J Super Hercules aircraft have also been deployed to transport boats from Pune and Gandhinagar to Srinagar, and 10,000 blankets and 3,000 tents from Kanpur to Jammu and Srinagar. The Army has moved in 200 columns and evacuated more than 15,000 people from different areas of the state so far, he said.

As the state struggled to deal with the enormity of the situation, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah urged people “not to panic”. “Please do not panic, I promise that we will reach you,” he said.

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In Srinagar, even as Army choppers started aerial operations, they were unable to evacuate hundreds of people trapped in the flooded areas. Rescue workers said over 1,000 people, including women and children, were stranded in Rajbagh and the surrounding areas, where the level of water has reached over 30 feet.

“We rescued 45 people from Kursu Rajbagh. We would have continued but the currents were so strong that it was becoming impossible to move. We had to abandon the operation,’’ said Inam-ul-Nabi, a Red Cross worker.

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Though the water level began to recede in the southern parts, most of the city remained under water. In the afternoon, officials of the state government’s flood control department opened the flood gates so that the water would flow into the Dal Lake. South Kashmir remained completely cut off with all the connecting roads submerged and no phone connectivity as well.

READ: No travel across LoC due to flash floods

The local administration remained missing in Srinagar, with no attempts to evacuate residents even as the water level in the Jhelum continued to rise. “Thousands of distress calls were made by people trapped inside their houses but the officials failed to come to their help. The government has failed on all fronts. We have decided to carry out rescue operations on our own,’’ said Sahid Wali, a student from Khanyar in Srinagar. Wali and other volunteers had arranged a boat and were on their way to Rajbagh to rescue those trapped there.

By late afternoon, a group of volunteers, “Self Help Group For Kashmir Flood Victims”, posted appeals for help on social networking sites from people trapped in Rajbagh, Kursu, Natipora, Shivpora, Rambagh, Indiranagar, Wazir Bagh, Jawaharnagar and other colonies in the city. By evening, most of the cellphones had stopped working. There was no electricity either. This fuelled the panic, as rumours spread about people dying in different neighbourhoods.

While the Army and NDRF teams launched rescue and relief operations in South Kashmir, there was no such intervention visible in Srinagar even as the CM promised to send boats and rescue hundreds of trapped residents. There were also unconfirmed reports that several houses in Natipora area had collapsed.

A flood-affected villager being rescued using a rope by the army at Thanamandi village of Rajouri on Friday. (Source: PTI)

With the road links being hit and no power or water supply, the state government has ordered closure of schools till September 15.

Meanwhile, at least 36 people were feared killed in landslides in Udhampur district on Sunday morning. Sources said an entire mohalla, on top of a hill in Panjar area of Pancheri, was buried in landslides. While seven bodies had been retrieved from the debris by evening, about 30 are still missing. In another incident, six people were killed in a house collapse at Charai Muttal area.

DIG, Udhampur-Reasi range, Garib Dass, said they were still receiving reports about people being buried under landslides or house collapse in some remote hilly areas. He put the number of confirmed deaths at 32, while adding that over 400 houses had been damaged in the two districts.

The worst-hit areas are Poonch and Rajouri districts, where over 70 people have died in flash floods and landslides so far, and nearly 800 houses have been damaged. A number of bridges have been washed away or sustained extensive damage, cutting off many towns in Poonch district.

GOC of Jammu based 16 Corps, Lt General K H Singh, said two Army jawans have died while half-a-dozen posts along the LoC suffered damage.

The barbed wire fence along five kilometres of the LoC has also been washed away, he said.

While many areas in Jammu remained cut off from the rest of the state, sources said the train service on the Jammu-Katra stretch and Banihal-Qazigund-Baramulla section has been suspended due to landslides. The Vaishnodevi yatra has also been suspended, even as thousands of pilgrims remain stranded.