J&K flood toll over 150, PM lines up Rs 1,000 crore to fight ‘national crisis’
JAMMU/SRINAGAR: The death toll in Jammu & Kashmir’s swamped districts from swirling waters of Jhelum, Chenab and Tawi and their tributaries rose to 150 with at least 50 more fatalities reported from various districts on Sunday. Numerous people were marooned even as relief efforts intensified with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who surveyed the extent of devastation from air, announcing Rs 1000 crore in aid for the pummeled state, describing its worst floods in 50 years as a national calamity.
“I would like to assure the people of the state that it’s not their crisis alone. It’s a crisis for the whole country,” Modi told reporters in Srinagar. Saying that he shared the anguish of the people, the PM said, “An additional special project assistance of Rs 1,000 crore will be made available by the government to the state for flood relief and rehabilitation. More assistance would be provided if required, after a survey of the situation.”
Modi also offered all possible help to Pakistan for carrying out relief operations in flood-ravaged Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in what government officials described as a humanitarian gesture.
The Army said it had evacuated more than 15,000 people until Sunday evening with at least 2,000 people getting shelter and thousands receiving food and first aid. More than 200 columns (75-100 personnel each) are now deployed with the Army chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, supervising relief and rescue efforts.Flood waters have knocked down buildings, snapped road and communication links, and cut off many areas. In Srinagar, the cantonment, secretariat and the high court are inundated. IAF deployed 29 planes and helicopters and set up a disaster tracking cell but many more people were trapped with chief minister Omar Abdullah assuring them quick respite.
“This is an unprecedented situation and we are doing the best under the circumstances. Please do not panic, we will reach you, I promise,” Omar said.
In Srinagar, three major hospitals were inundated. Two floors of the three-storey government hospital for children in the heart of Srinagar are flooded and about 300 people – including patients, doctors, nurses and attendants – are crowding the top floor. Amid a black-out, two other hospitals too have reported flooding and sent distress calls for rescue.In Jammu, landslides have damaged roads, bridges, buildings and crops. Vehicular traffic is at standstill on the Jammu-Pathankot highway. Katra trains have been halted and Haj flights scheduled up to September 12 have been postponed.
Omar said the water level in Jammu was decreasing slowly. “We will now focus more on relief and rehabilitation. The situation is clawing back to normalcy in Jammu but in Kashmir the situation has worsened, especially in Srinagar. Our priority is to save people,” he told reporters. He also opposed any delay in holding the Assembly polls and said these would be held as scheduled.
Boats, rescue teams, divers, flood lights and search lights are being sent from other states, officials said, adding there was also need for more tents. A total of twelve AN-32, four IL-76, five C-130J and two C-17 transport aircraft of the IAF have been pressed into operation to ferry men and relief material. As the number of shelter-less people is rising, Army is also providing tented accommodation to hundreds of people.
Vaishnodevi yatra remained suspended for the fourth day with authorities saying the pilgrimage would resume only after the weather improves.
Seventy boats and five National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have been despatched for rescue and relief. The decision was taken by home minister Rajnath Singh after reviewing the situation on Sunday. He also appealed to all social organisations and NGOs to mobilise their resources to help in rescue efforts.
“The situation is quiet grim. There is extensive flooding all over in the Tawi and Chenab rivers. In certain places, the tributaries of both major rivers have got further made situation from tough for locals. There are people who are struck on village roofs and various other places,” said General Officer Commanding Nagrota-based 16 Corps, Lt Gen K H Singh.
“Meteorological office has said the weather will improve slowly. As its gets netter, more helicopters will be used. We have evacuated ladies, children and aged and the effort will only continue with vigor,” Lt Gen Singh said.
Control rooms at Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi to monitor and coordinate rescue and relief operations can be reached at Jammu & Kashmir House (011)-24611210 and 24611108; Srinagar 0194-2452138; and Jammu 0191-2560401.
Also home ministry’s control room in New Delhi at: (011) 23093054, 23092763, 23093564, 23092923, 23092885, 23093566, 23093563.