PM Modi visits Kashmir after floods kill 175; announces Rs 1000 cr aid
Jammu/Srinagar (7th Sept, 2014): The flood fury unleashed more death and destruction in Jammu and Kashmir, claiming the lives of nearly 150 people so far and leaving many marooned, even as relief efforts were intensified on Sunday, with the Prime Minister announcing Rs 1000 crore aid for the battered state.
The swirling waters have damaged buildings and snapped road and communication links, cutting off many areas. The Army cantonment, Civil Secretariat and the High Court in Srinagar have also been inundated.
Stepping up the relief efforts, IAF has pressed 29 planes and helicopters into service, set up a disaster monitoring cell and alerted all its bases to a high state of readiness.
12,500 people have been rescued from various areas of Jammu by teams of Army and IAF till now with 184 columns (75-100 personnel each) deployed.
But many more people were trapped and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah assured them that help will reach soon.
"This is an unprecedented situation and we are doing the best we can under the circumstances. Please do not panic, we will reach you, I promise," he said.
As the state struggled to deal with the enormity of the situation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the flood situation in Jammu region and termed it a "national level disaster".
The Prime Minister shared the pain and anguish of the people as he was briefed in Jammu and in Srinagar by Omar and senior officials of the state government about the damage caused by the floods.
"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 proper survey of the situation has been made," the PM said.
Omar said the water level in Jammu was decreasing slowly. "We will now focus more on relief and rehabilitation. The situation is slowly going back to normalcy in Jammu while in Kashmir the situation has become worse. Especially the situation is still bad in Srinagar. "Our priority is to save people," he told reporters.
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.
Mata Vaishnodevi shrine yatra remained suspended for the fourth consecutive day in view of the heavy rains with authorities saying the pilgrimage would resume only after the weather improves.
Divisional Commissioner, Jammu province, Shant Manu said that, "As many as 127 people have died in flash floods, house collapses and landslides in Jammu region".
Also, six people were feared killed in a house collapse triggered by landslides in a remote village in Udhampur district, where 21 people have lost their lives in flash-floods so far. 11 people have died in Kashmir Valley so far.
River Jhelum was in spate in several places, breaching embankments, which has led to flooding of residential and commercial areas.
In Srinagar, the commercial hub of Lal Chowk and surrounding areas were inundated and the water levels at Civil Secretariat and High Court rose to six to eight feet.
Officials said vital roads including the airport road, Exhibition Crossing, Hari Singh High Street, Lal Chowk and Regal Chowk have been submerged under several feet of water.
Access to main hospitals like SMHS and Lalla Ded has been cut off due to flooding of roads.
Thousands of people from water-logged areas have been moved to safer places but many people have been trapped in upper stories of their homes in low-lying areas of the city, the officials said, adding Air Force choppers were carrying out rescue operations.
Communication system has been disrupted with all almost all private cellular networks out of order. The landline telephone network has also been badly affected.
Electricity and water supply has remained disrupted in affected areas for the past six days now.
"The rescue and relief operations has been intensified in view of the improvement in weather. It will continue till all people trapped in floods are rescued", Air Officer Commanding (AoC), Jammu IAF Station, Air Commodore P E Patange said.
"Our priority is to save the lives first besides carrying out airdropping of ration, medicines to the trapped people," he said.
Twenty-two people died overnight in Jammu including five in Jammu due to house collapse, six in Udhampur, five in Reasi two each in Rajouri and Poonch taking the toll in Jammu region to 127.
Of the 63 people who were washed along with a bus in Rajouri district on Thursday last, two more bodies were recovered today, taking the total number of bodies recovered to 37.
Reaching out to jawans in marooned BoPs and fencing areas along Indo-Pak border, IAF choppers evacuated 108 jawans of BSF and Army from forward posts on Sunday.
A senior official said that additional teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and 100 boats have been rushed to Kashmir for launching rescue operations in the Valley.
"We are facing shortage of boats for rescuing people from inundated areas. A lot of 100 boats is being airlifted from Delhi," Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Rohit Kansal said.
Kansal said many people were trapped in several localities. "Due to shortage of boats we have not been able to reach these areas yet," he said.
The Army, meanwhile, has resumed searches for two soldiers, who went missing after their boat capsized during a rescue and relief operation in flood-affected Pulwama district of Kashmir.
The Prime Minister today also offered all possible assistance to Pakistan for carrying out relief operations in the flood-ravaged Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
He had on Thursday announced Rs 2 lakh as ex-gratia relief for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured in the state.
Other states have also been asked to assist in the relief efforts. Home Minister Rajnath Singh also appealed to all social organisations and NGOs to mobilise their resources.
Control rooms are being set up at Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi to actively monitor and coordinate the rescue and relief operations in the state.