Flood fury cuts off Valley, Srinagar marooned
Jammu/Srinagar, September 7
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced a special package of Rs 1,000 crore for the state after an aerial survey of the flood-ravaged areas,
The 300-km Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and all other major roads in the state remained closed following fresh landslides. The swirling waters have damaged buildings and snapped communication links.
Armed forces have stepped up rescue efforts in the state where over 13,000 people have so far been evacuated to safety by the Army while the Air Force has pressed more planes and choppers into service and opened a disaster monitoring cell to deal with the crisis
In Srinagar, the commercial hub of Lal Chowk and surrounding areas were inundated and the water levels at Civil Secretariat and High Court rose to about six feet.
Officials said vital roads, including the airport road, Exhibition Crossing, Hari Singh High Street, Lal Chowk and Regal Chowk have been submerged under several feet of water. Access to main hospitals like SMHS and Lalla Ded has been cut off following flooding.
The mobile phone and internet connectivity was also affected in Kashmir on Sunday afternoon, completely cutting off the Valley from rest of the country.
Promising all help, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told people not to panic. "This is an unprecedented situation and we are doing the best we can under the circumstances. Please do not panic, we will reach you, I promise," he said.
Nearly 36 persons were reportedly missing in remote Panjar Panchayat of Pancheri tehsil in Udhampur district and Malhar village of Gulabgarh belt in Reasi district after massive landslides on Saturday night. The rescue teams, including National Disaster Response Force personnel, have so far recovered eight bodies from the debris from Panjar area.
The local administration, however, was unable to reach out to the people in Malhar village in Reasi where at least two persons were missing and around 200 were waiting for help after their houses were flattened by landslides.
"We are facing problems in recovering bodies from the debris. So far, eight bodies have been retrieved while around 30-35 persons are believed to be missing," said Shantmanu, Jammu Divisional Commissioner.
Six members of a family, including four minors, were buried alive after a landslide in Muthal Panchayat in Udhampur district
Gareeb Dass, DIG, Udhamur-Reasi Range, said: "As many as 39 deaths have been reported in the area. More than 400 houses have suffered damage." The pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine remained suspended following damage to the track.
Reports from Rajouri district said, four more bodies have been recovered from Nowshera area where 63 persons were washed away on September 4.
Stepping up the relief efforts, the IAF has pressed 29 planes and helicopters into service, set up a disaster monitoring cell and alerted all its bases to a high state of readiness. Over 13,000 persons have been rescued from various areas of the state by Army and IAF team till now with 184 columns (75-100 personnel each) deployed. "Our priority is to save the lives first besides carrying out airdropping of ration, medicines to the trapped people," said an IAF spokesperson.
Twelve AN-32, four IL-76, five C-130J and two C-17 transport aircraft have been pressed into operation to ferry men and relief material. As the number of shelter-less people is rising, the Army is also providing tented accommodation to hundreds of people.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has directed the NDRF to send five more columns to the flood-affected areas immediately.
Over 150 boats, rescue teams, divers, flood lights and search lights are being sent to the state, officials said, adding there was also need for more tents. "We are facing shortage of boats for rescuing people from inundated areas," Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Rohit Kansal said. The Home Minister directed his ministry to dispatch around 70 boats to J-K.
Control rooms have been set up at Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi to actively monitor and coordinate the rescue and relief operations in the state.