Over 76,500 evacuated in flood-hit Kashmir

Srinagar/Jammu : Over 76,500 people have been rescued in Jammu and Kashmir and relief efforts were on in the flood-hit parts of the state where hundreds still remained trapped even as the flood waters continued to recede Wednesday, officials said adding that at least 215 people have died in the inundation.

A massive rescue and relief operation by the Indian Armed Forces and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was in progress on a “war footing” in Jammu and Kashmir with over 76,500 people rescued so far, a defence ministry statement said in Jammu.

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The statement said the army has deployed 329 columns of its personnel for rescue and relief operations, of which 244 columns were deployed in the Srinagar region and 85 in the Jammu region.

Many people remained trapped in Srinagar city alone that was inundated in flood waters during the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday.

“Unless the flood waters recede completely, and we are able to reach all the submerged areas, we cannot be sure about the exact toll in these floods,” a top state official said in Srinagar.

Officials said Over 76,500 marooned people have been rescued so far in the state, but they also confirmed Wednesday that many more could still be trapped in submerged areas.

The water level of the river Jhelum continued to recede in Srinagar and throughout the Kashmir Valley Wednesday.

Areas like Rajbagh, Jwahar Nagar, Gogjibagh, Bemina, Mehjor Nagar, Karan Nagar and Qamarwari in the Srinagar city were still submerged under flood waters.

“Thirty-one people are still missing in the landslide tragedy in which 40 people died in Panchauri area in the Udhampur district Tuesday,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Garib Das told IANS Wednesday.

The Srinagar-Jammu highway continued to remain closed for the seventh day Wednesday, but traffic on the over 440-km-long Srinagar-Leh highway was restored Tuesday. This road connects the Kashmir Valley with the Ladakh region.

An acute crisis of petrol and kerosene had hit the Valley. On Wednesday, all filing stations in Srinagar said they had run out of fuel.

The rescuers from the Indian Armed Forces and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have distributed 8,200 blankets and 650 tents so far to those affected by the floods.

The army also has distributed 150,000 litres of water, 2.6 tonnes of biscuits, seven tonnes of baby food and 28,000 food packets in the flood-affected areas.

“Additional water bottles are being air-lifted from Chandigarh and Delhi. In an endeavour to provide speedy medical aid to the affected populace, 80 medical teams of the Armed Forces Medical Services have also swung into action,” the defence ministry statement said.

So far, 79 transport aircraft and helicopters of the Indian Air Force and Army Aviation Corps have been pressed into service.

The statement added that more relief material, including 2,000 hospital bed sheets, blankets and tents, water bottles and cooked food are being air-lifted Wednesday.

So far, 613 sorties were undertaken by the helicopters and aircraft of the armed forces and 715 tonnes of relief materials were dropped by the Indian Air Force.

As many as 135 army boats and 148 inflatable boats of the NDRF are actively involved in the rescue operation.

To restore road connectivity, five task forces of Border Roads Organisation, which include 5,700 personnel, have been pressed into service.

“As of now, they have restored the road connectivity between Batote – Kishtwar and Kishtwar – Sinthan Pass. The work between Sinthan Pass and Anantnag is in progress and Jammu to KM 172 is open for light vehicular traffic. Jammu – Poonch road has been cleared for traffic,” the statement said.

Fifteen engineering task force teams along with boats and other lifesaving equipment have reached the flood-affected areas to supplement the rescue operation.

The situation was being continuously monitored at the headquarters of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) in New Delhi.

A fallout of the floods has been the breakdown of the communication systems in the Valley. The radio station and Doordarshan facility have been shut for the last four days.

All cell phone service providers, except Aircel, went on the blink, snapping connectivity.

Many Kashmiris feel the state government has failed to reach out to the people.

All police stations were Tuesday directed to locate heads of various government departments for a meeting in Srinagar Wednesday.