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Floods ravage Kashmir; 16 buried alive as houses collapse

Kashmir: Sixteen people were buried alive as two houses collapsed and a young man was washed away in floods that ravaged the Kashmir Valley on Monday following four days of incessant rainfall. Anxious people fled to safety as the Jhelum river rose dangerously and swollen streams rushed down mountains.

Authorities on Monday declared Jammu and Kashmir as flood-hit and people feared a repeat of 2014 when surging waters left a trail of death and destruction in the state.

A police officer told IANS that a landslide in Laden village of Budgam district buried two houses, trapping under debris 16 people from two families.

“We have not recovered any body from the debris,” he added.

Reports in Jammu said a vehicle carrying cattle on way to Udhampur from Doda was caught in flash floods and a young man, Angrez Singh, was washed away.

As the situation turned grim, many fled to safety.

For Nisar Hussain, 65, who lives in the Gogjibagh residential area of Srinagar with his 60-year-old wife and 27-year-old daughter, this has been the second uprooting after unprecedented floods hit Jammu and Kashmir last year.

A worried Nisar said that on Sunday night he had to quickly shift out his family after flood alert was sounded by the authorities.

“This is a trauma. My daughter simply refused to live at Gogjibagh after the news about the water level rising in the Jhelum river was flashed on the TV news channels,” he said.

“I would not have come back…It is simply intolerable. What is this? We had floods in autumn, we have them in the spring now. Summers are otherwise also known for floods in Kashmir,” he said.

Ghulam Rasool, 56, another local who had come back to live in his flood-hit home in Rajbagh, did not even wait for the authorities to issue the flood warning.

“I left everything behind and shifted out of my home along with my family hardly four hours after it looked the rain was unending during Saturday night,” he recalled.

Water inundated the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway at Pampore town, 12 km from Srinagar. Reports said Jhelum river waters had breached the embankment at one place in Pampore town, inundating the highway.

A top divisional administration official told IANS: “Flood level was 22.8 feet at Sangam (Anantnag), 19 feet at Ram Munshi Bagh (Srinagar), and 11.55 feet at Ashim (Bandipora) today (Monday) morning.”

The official added that people living along the banks of Jhelum were advised to exercise extreme caution. “Moving to safer places from vulnerable areas is advised.”

People living in flood-prone areas of Srinagar city, especially those in Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Wazir Bagh and some other places began shifting to safer places since Sunday evening.

Many shopkeepers in the Residency Road and Lal Chowk commercial hub of the city moved their merchandise to safer places. These areas were the worst hit during the unprecedented floods of last September.

Over 80 public and private properties suffered partial or total damage because of incessant rainfall.

The strategic Jammu-Srinagar highway was closed since Saturday. Authorities in Jammu said the highway would remain closed on Monday as well.

An avalanche warning was also sounded in the higher reaches of the state and all examinations scheduled have been postponed up to April 3.

Inter-district connectivity has also been severely affected in the valley.

Srinagar-Gulmarg, Srinagar-Kupwara and Srinagar-Bandipora roads have been blocked due to flash floods and washing away of some bridges and culverts on these roads.

The weather office has forecast improvement in weather from Monday.

“There would be decrease in precipitation from today (Monday). Another western disturbance is likely to hit the state on April 2, but the intensity of that western disturbance is going to be much less than the one that had been active here during the last four days,” Sonam Lotus, director of the local Met Office, told IANS.

The central government was in constant touch with the government of Jammu and Kashmir, and monitoring the flood situation.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

No breach of embankment has been reported, an official statement said.

Two teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deputed and four other teams kept on stand-by.