Kashmir floods toll near 200, rescue efforts on, aid pours in
New Delhi: Armed forces stepped up rescue efforts in Jammu and Kashmir, evacuating over 47,000 people so far and government agencies tried to restore road and communication links snapped in the state's worst floods in 50 years that have left nearly 200 dead and crippled infrastructure.
Aid for the beleaguered northern state poured in with various state governments announcing aid and relief material - Uttar Pradesh (Rs.20 crore), Maharashtra (10 crore), Bihar (9 crore), Odisha (5 crore).
View of villagers looking on by the edge of a missing section of a bridge across the overflowing Tawi river in the Mandal area of Jammu. Pic/AFP
Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh, who himself belongs to the state, said the Narendra Modi government is doing everything it can to help Jammu and Kashmir tide over the flood calamity and stressed that this was not the time for blame game over the floods.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the first priority of the government is to save human lives. Various agencies including the three defence services and the National Disaster Response Force made coordinated efforts to rescue people, many of them clinging onto rooftops.
With the floods having washed away most roads, people continued to be stranded in several areas of the state. Officials estimate that the toll across the state could be around 200, but it is feared that the toll could be much higher.
A defence ministry spokesperson said that armed forces and NDRF have so far rescued 47,227 people across the state. Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth Tuesday chaired a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee to review the situation.
Flood waters, however, continued to play havoc in Srinagar. Though the water level in the Jhelum river receded marginally, but the backwaters of the Dal lake inundated more areas in the city. Large parts of Srinagar are still under several feet of water and telecommunication and electricity lines have snapped.
Authorities scrambled to rescue the marooned people and tried to restore the telecommunications network that has been on the blink for the past three days. Officials said that four satellite transmitting towers are being set up in Srinagar and other places by Tuesday evening.
Some hotel occupants used ropes to come out of the buildings. More than 500 hostel students of the National Institute of Technology in the Hazratbal area were shifted to safer locations after the water from the Dal lake entered the campus.
Flood waters have also entered portions of the Hazratbal shrine but the authorities confirmed that the holy relic of the Prophet it houses is safe as only the shrine's ground floor has been inundated.
Home ministry officials meanwhile said that food and water supply was being stepped up to the state and 1,25,000 packets of biscuits, 100,000 litres of potable water, 150 tonnes of ready to eat food apart from food packets were being made available.
The officials said that over 250 boats have already been deployed in relief and rescue efforts. With power supply in the Valley disrupted, 6,000 solar lanterns were being mobilized. Air India has declared free passage for the tourists trapped in Srinagar.
The army has distributed 7,200 blankets and 210 tents to the flood victims, while 80 teams of the Armed Forces Medical Services have been pressed into action.Indian Air Force airplanes and helicopters have till now undertaken 451 sorties, dropping 563 tonnes of relief material.
A defence ministry spokesperson said that five task forces of Border Roads Organisation have been pressed into service. The army also restored road connectivity to Kashmir Valley from the Leh region. The valley has been cut off from the rest of the country for seven days.
The road connectivity between south Kashmir's Anantnag district and central Kashmir's Badgam district with Srinagar has been restored but the Jammu-Srinagar national highway continued to remain closed for the sixth day Tuesday. Jitendra Singh told the media in New Delhi that BSNL is trying to restore communication links in Srinagar, but it will take at least a few days more.
NGO ActionAid India said that over seven lakh people have been affected by floods in the state and the "important thing in times like these is to reach out to women, girls and children who are most vulnerable".