Photo: Aamir Salati
Jammu/Srinagar/New Delhi, Sep 5: Jammu and Kashmir continued to reel under incessant downpour which continued for the fourth successive day Friday across both Jammu region and the Kashmir Valley, leading to at least 14 more deaths in Rajouri while thousands abandoned their homes and fled to safety. However, weather officials offered hope, saying the rains could end Saturday and fair weather was expected next week, while the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) despatched two teams for relief and rescue operations in the flood-affected areas, while two more were on their way.
As many as 40 people went missing after a landslide in Thanamandi area of Rajouri district in Jammu region, said officials. 14 bodies had been recovered so far. With the latest accident, the toll has reached 74 and is feared to rise further.
Meanwhile, the pilgrimage to the revered Mata Vaishno Devi temple in Reasi district has been suspended due to threat of landslides on the 14-km path to the hilltop shrine, said Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board CEO M.K. Bhandari. At least 25,000 pilgrims are stranded in the base town of Katra, he added.
In Jammu district, authorities have declared the bridge over the Chenab in Akhnoor unsafe for traffic due to rising water levels. In the Valley, the flood situation became serious with unprecedented heavy downpour continuing and the administration finding it difficult to reach the inundated areas.
Reports from all the 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley indicate thousands have abandoned their homes in inundated areas to shift to safer places. Electric supply in most areas of south Kashmir remained suspended because of uprooted electric poles and apprehensions of accidents due to short circuits in water-logged villages and towns.
Drinking water facilities in more than 500 water supply schemes have also been disabled because of water logging and electricity failures across the valley.
Sonam Lotus, director of the Met Office in Srinagar, however told IANS that the weather would start improving from Saturday. Heavy rain in the catchment areas of Jhelum river has so far submerged more than 100 villages in the south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, where the river was still rising, as well as the north Kashmir districts of Ganderbal, Srinagar and Badgam.
In Srinagar district alone, over 70,000 residents in low-lying areas have been affected as flood waters have entered their homes and agricultural fields. However, the water level of the Jhelum there was now constant.
Flood waters have already entered Mehjoor Nagar, Bemina, Barzalla, Gulshan Nagar, Natipora, Channapora, Sant Nagar, Shah Hamadan colony and some other residential areas in Srinagar city. Both the Lidder stream in south Kashmir and the Sindhi stream in the north were also flowing above the danger mark, inundating dozens of villages. The floods are believed to be the worst to hit the valley during the last 50 years.
“We had a very serious flood in the valley in 1992, but given the sheer magnitude of the damage done by the present flood and the rise of water levels in Jhelum river and its tributaries, the present flood has revived the horrors of 1959 flood in Kashmir,” said Master Ghulam Nabi, 71, who lives in Ganderbal district.
All educational institutions have been closed till Monday by the authorities who have also suspended Haj flights from Kashmir to Saudi Arabia till Sep 8.
The Srinagar-Jammu and Srinagar-Leh national highways and the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road have been closed to traffic.
Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Rohit Kansal told IANS that Radio Kashmir has suspended all routine broadcasts and is now continuously airing only flood related news and messages. The top priority of the state government now is to prevent loss of human lives, he added.
President Pranab Mukherjee condoled the deaths caused by floods and landslides across the state. In a message to Governor N.N. Vohra, Mukherjee said he had “deeply saddened” about the “loss of lives, injuries and damage to property” and called on the state government and other authorities to provide “all possible aid” and medical assistance to the affected people.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a telephonic conversation with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, while the ministry announced two NDRF teams from Bathinda have been air-lifted to Srinagar and two more teams from Bathinda were on the way.