The flood situation in Jammu and Kashmir continued to worsen on Saturday with the death toll mounting to 100 while rescuers struggled to evacuate thousands of people to safety as major rivers and streams were in spate due to incessant rains.
In Jammu region, 11 more deaths were reported on Saturday, including seven in two house collapse incidents in Udhampur. Four more bodies were recovered from Thursday’s bus mishap in which 63 members of marriage party were washed away in Rajouri district, SSP Rajouri Mubasir Latiffe said adding a total of 29 bodies have been recovered so far.
At least nine Army personnel including an officer were also trapped in strong water current as their boat capsized during a rescue operation in Pulwama district, where River Jhelum has breached embankment prompting authorities to issue a red alert for people living in low lying areas of south Srinagar.
“We have launched an operation to rescue the missing personnel,” an army official said, adding, “Despite facing dangers to personal safety, the army personnel are out there to provide relief to the civilian population of Kashmir.”
With today’s deaths, a total of 100 people have died in the state hit by floods and landslides due to incessant rains since Wednesday. While 89 people have been killed in Jammu, 11 have died in the Kashmir Valley so far.
Till now, as many as 7,000 people were rescued in various parts of Jammu by teams of Army and IAF teams with 85 columns (75-100 personnel each) of troops and Air Force helicopters taking part in the operations in the state.
“Operation Megh Rahat in Jammu and Operation Sahayata launched by Army in Jammu and Kashmir regions has moved on to next phase where Army plans extensive deployment in support of flood relief,” Defence Spokesman Col. S D Goswami said.
Authorities today sounded a red alert asking people living close to River Sindh to move to safer places following cloudbursts and flash floods in the higher reaches triggered by the continuous rains for the past five days.
Home Minister takes stock of flood situation
Home Minister Rajnath Singh met Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday and took stock of the flood situation but could not conduct an aerial survey of the affected areas due to inclement weather.
“The floods have caused a lot of damage. If this is the condition of city, what will be the situation in rural areas. I was told that this has happened after 50-60 years,” said Rajnath Singh who assured the Chief Minister that the Centre stands firmly behind the state government at this crucial hour.
“No politics should be played at this hour. After the water recedes, an inter-ministerial team will be sent to assess the damage. PM has given Rs. 2 lakh to the kin of every person killed in the floods. I have told the state government to utilise Rs. 1,100 crore of State Disaster Relief Fund which has 90 per cent of grant from the Centre,” Singh told reporters.
Declare flood as national calamity
On the other hand, Congress demanded to declare situation in Jammu and Kashmir as National Calamity.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on phone and demanded immediate steps so that the stranded people are shifted to safer places more efficiently and effectively.
He demanded that the floods should be declared as a national calamity.
The Prime Minister assured all possible help to the state in this hour of crisis after Azad, a former J&K chief minister, spoke to him from Srinagar and sought his personal attention in view of the “very grave and grim situation” prevailing in the entire state.