Floods devastate Jammu and Kashmir, Modi to visit Sunday
Srinagar/Jammu, Sep 6 (IANS) The worst-ever floods in Jammu and Kashmir in 60 years have left at least 107 dead, affected 2,500 villages as well as extensively damaged property, infrastructure and crops, officials said Saturday. The met department said the “worst was over”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was briefed about the situation by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who visited the state Saturday, decided to go himself Sunday to see the ground situation, an official statement said.
Rajnath Singh, who discussed the situation with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and senior officials in Srinagar during his visit, assured all help to the state. The Congress meanwhile urged Modi to declare the floods a national calamity.
The weather office said weather will improve from Sunday.
“From Sunday onwards, Jammu and Kashmir will have clear weather for the next one week. As the system has already started weakening, we can safely say the worst is over,” Met office director Sonam Lotus told IANS.
Rajnath Singh said that 107 people have been killed, noting floods of this magnitude have hit Jammu and Kashmir after 60 years and 2,500 villages were affected.
“I want to assure the people and the government of Jammu and Kashmir that the central government stands besides you in your hour of crisis and we extend all necessary help to you,” the minister, who was accompanied by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh – an MP from the state, told media persons at Jammu airport.
He said Abdullah told him the topmost concern was the safety of human lives and to evacuate those trapped. The chief minister also expressed concern that paddy, maize, vegetables and fruit crops over a large area have been destroyed, while much of public infrastructure and private property were damaged.
Revenue Secretary Vinod Koul earlier said that 390 villages in the Valley were submerged and 1,225 partially affected while at least 1,000 villages were affected in Jammu region.
He said that 50 bridges, hundreds of kilometers of roads and power installations units were damaged but a final assessment could be made only after the flood waters receded. Koul said the state urgently needs 25,000 tents and 40,000 blankets.
The toll in the Jammu region has risen to 120 following the death of 14 people in a landslide in Rajouri Friday, while many more are missing.
Both the Chenab and Tawi rivers were flowing above the danger mark Saturday morning, with three bridges on Tawi were closed for traffic as they were declared unsafe, officials said. One, built in May, was later washed away. A bridge over the Chenab in Akhnoor (Jammu district) was closed Friday.
Five people trapped in flood waters in Sidhra area of Jammu city were rescued Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, the Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra in Reasi remained suspended for the third day Saturday. Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board CEO M.K. Bhandari told reporters that more than 25,000 pilgrims are camped in the base town, Katra, as landslides have blocked the mountain trek.
The Jammu-Srinagar national highway remained closed as well as roads from Jammu to Poonch, Doda and Kishtwar. Electricity supply to Poonch, Rajouri, Doda, Kishtwar, Reasi, Ramban, Samba, Kathua and Udhampur districts has been badly affected during the last four days.
Authorities now confirmed that 60 members of a marriage party were killed in Rajouri Thursday when flash floods washed away their bus near Lam, 17 km from Noushera town, while 60 people have died due to landslides and flash floods in Poonch, Reasi, Rajouri, Doda and Udhampur districts upto Friday.
In the Kashmir Valley, a cloudburst in the Sonamarg mountains led to the water rising in the Sindh stream, threatening hundreds of low-lying villages in Ganderbal district. The district administration assisted by army evacuated hundreds of people from the area.
Thousands of people in hundreds of villages, especially in the south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama, have abandoned their homes and livestock to move to safer places. So far, 20 people have been killed in the Valley, according to officials.
Meanwhile, seven of the nine soldiers who were trapped by flood waters after their boat capsized in Kakapora area of Pulwama, 30 km from Srinagar, have been rescued, police said.
“An operation is on to rescue the remaining two,” a police officer told IANS.
The Indian Air Force has deployed its AN-32 and IL-76 transport aircraft to airlift relief teams and equipment and relief material, an official statement said.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, talking to Modi over phone from Srinagar, urged him to declare the floods a national calamity while Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi expressed concern over the situation.