77,000 rescued in flood-hit Kashmir, PM reviews situation

New Delhi: The armed forces continued their coordinated efforts in Jammu and Kashmir, rescuing over 77,000 people so far as the toll in the state's worst flood in six decades reached 215. Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday took stock of the situation and was briefed on the status of operations, amid concerns about the possible outbreak of water-borne diseases.

An aerial view of the flood situation. Pic/PTI

Flood waters receded in the Kashmir Valley Wednesday but anxiety prevailed among people who are still stranded. Over 77,000 people have been rescued so far in the state by the armed forces and the National Disaster Response Force. However, there was a sense of despondency and apprehension among families who lost a large part of their belongings in the flood waters.

Many people are trapped in Srinagar city alone that submerged in the flood waters during the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday. Officials said 215 people have died in the floods. "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 state official said.

Officials also said many more could still be trapped in submerged areas. People rescued from various parts of Srinagar recalled the horror. They said the cries for help of many others in their areas had stopped, indicating they had either died or were resigned to their fate and knew that the chances of their survival were bleak.

Areas like Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Gogji Bagh, Bemina, Mehjor Nagar, Karan Nagar and Qamarwari in Srinagar were still submerged. Many Kashmiris feel the state government has failed to reach out to the affected people. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, however, dismissed the criticism that his government did not do enough.

"This is an unprecedented situation. There is no way we could have prepared for it. Operations are being cranked up, supplies are arriving and we are doing our best," he said. Army chief Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag, who visited the flood-hit state Wednesday, said the situation has improved and the army was working day and night to provide relief to those affected.

"Relief and rescue operations are on. The situation has improved a lot. More boats have come today (Wednesday), we have enough boats now," he said. "We now need to supply food, water and medicines to people in need. All resources available with us have been pressed into action," he said. The army chief assured that the forces will help everyone.

An acute crisis of petrol and kerosene has hit the Kashmir Valley. On Wednesday, all filling stations in Srinagar said they have run out of fuel. The Srinagar-Jammu National Highway continued to be closed for the seventh day Wednesday, but traffic on the 440-km long Srinagar-Leh highway was restored Tuesday. The road link between Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu region has also been restored.

Inspector General of Police Garib Das told IANS Wednesday that 31 people were still missing following a landslide in which 40 people died in Panchauri area in Udhampur district Tuesday.

Eighty transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force and Army Aviation Corps have been pressed into relief operations. In view of the huge magnitude of the calamity, the central government is assisting the state in further ramping up the rescue and relief operations.

Apart from providing food and water to the people, the central government is keen to help the state in paying more attention to hygiene and sanitation in the water-logged areas of Srinagar to prevent any outbreak of water-borne diseases.

While 8,000 landlines were activated in Srinagar, mobile phone services have also been partially restored. A fallout of the floods has been the breakdown of the communication systems in Kashmir. The radio station and Doordarshan facility have been shut for the last four days.

Congress leader Karan Singh - who hails from Kashmir - said the state had witnessed its worst floods "in living memory".

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