M A I N   N E W S

J-K flood fury
Omar: Situation improving, aim now to provide food & shelter to victims
* Will begin plugging Jhelum breaches soon: CM
* Rescue ops to be stepped up
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Omar Abdullah, J-K CMSrinagar, September 13
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday claimed that the situation in the flood-ravaged Valley was improving with the water in the Jhelum receding.

“My primary aim is to bail people out of this crisis. The focus remains on ensuring smooth supply of food, water and medicines to the needy,” said Omar in an exclusive interview to The Tribune.

The receding waters have brought down the number of those marooned in Srinagar to 1.50 lakh. “I am hoping that the loss of life will not be as severe as we are anticipating. In the heavily flooded south Kashmir area, the death toll was remarkably low,” said the Chief Minister.

“The water level of the Jhelum and other flood channels in central and south Kashmir was rapidly going down. The river is flowing marginally above the danger mark,” said Omar.

He said the government was waiting for the water level to go below the danger mark. “We will then begin to plug breaches on its (Jhelum) banks. Once that is done, the process of pumping out water from various areas will start,” he said.

The Jhelum has nine breaches on its northern bank and five on its southern bank in Srinagar alone.

The rising water level of Jhelum in some parts of north Kashmir was a matter of concern. “It’s a matter of concern, but I am keeping an eye on it,” said Omar.

On stones being hurled at rescue teams and IAF choppers, Omar said: “Certain elements were trying to disrupt relief operations.”

With banks and ATMs flooded, Omar said he has asked the J&K Bank Chairman to introduce mobile-banking facility. “What purpose the shops would serve when banks and ATMs are submerged in water. People need cash in their pockets.

The J&K Bank has started mobile banking service. At least people can now buy things they need,” he said.

On international support to bring Kashmir back on track, Omar said: “I see no harm if something happens at a government-to-government level. The work that may take months to finish could be done in some days. What’s the problem in it,” he said. India had reportedly refused some German expertise for carrying out the repair work in the Valley.

“To prevent an epidemic outbreak, we are distributing chlorine tablets and drinking water bottles. The Srinagar Municipal Corporation has been asked to activate its teams. Chemicals are being acquired to dispose of the bodies of dogs as they could be a source of epidemic,” said Omar.

On being asked whether relief and rescue efforts were sufficient enough, he said: “It’s humanly not possible to simultaneously reach out to every individual and get them out of floodwaters. Within the constraints of sky-space, helicopter space and communication network, we doing the best possible job.”

Officials have been tasked to start the process of assessing the wide-spread damage to the infrastructure, said Omar.

Omar expressed his gratitude to the Centre, Army, IAF and all other agencies engaged in rescue and relief operations. Till Friday, the Army and the NDRF had rescued over 80,000 people, he said. “Apart from various agencies, there are volunteers, who are enagaged in rescuing people. The total number of those rescued so far is more than 1.30 lakh,” said Omar.

He said the post-paid and pre-paid mobile users in the state would get grace period to pay their bills.

“While the post-paid customers would get additional 15 days to pay their bills, pre-paid customers would get five days of validity added to their accounts. Even with a zero balance, they would be able to make and receive calls,” he said.

When asked how Assembly polls would be conducted in the state in the current scenario, the Chief Minister said he had no time to care about polls.

“I have absolutely no time to think about polls...My focus is y on rescue, relief and restoration,” he said.





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