Jammu/Srinagar: The flood fury unleashed more death and destruction in Jammu and Kashmir, claiming the lives of nearly 150 people 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 marauding flood waters from major rivers and streams have damaged many buildings, including hospitals, and snapped road and communication links, cutting off many areas. The Army cantonment, Civil Secretariat and the High Court in Srinagar were also inundated.
While the situation was starting to ease in Jammu, large areas in Kashmir were enveloped in flood waters following incessant rains since Wednesday. The state government has ordered closure of all schools till September 12.
Stepping up relief efforts as the weather showed some signs of improvement, the army has deployed 184 columns (75-100 personnel each) while 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.
Over 13,000 people have been rescued from various areas by Army and IAF. But many people were trapped and awaiting help in upper stories of buildings in low-lying areas, including in Srinagar 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 tragedy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the flood situation 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 about the damage caused by the floods and said that the Centre stands shoulder to shoulder with J-K government and the people of the state in this hour of crisis.
"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, "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."
150 boats, rescue teams, divers, flood lights and search lights are being sent to the state, officials said, adding there was also need for more tents.
In Pacheri village in Udhampur, seven people were today killed and over 20 were missing after nearly two dozen houses were buried in landslides. Twenty-two people died overnight in Jammu, taking the toll to 145, including 11 in Kashmir Valley.
Mata Vaishnodevi shrine yatra remained suspended for the fourth consecutive day with authorities saying the pilgrimage would resume only after the weather improves. 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.
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.
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.
The weather department has forecast "no major rainfall" in the Valley as well as in Jammu as well in next four days
The 22 people who died overnight in Jammu included 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 a total of over 180 BSF and Army jawans from various forward posts in Jammu sector today.
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.
A team of officials headed by Joint Secretary (Disaster Management) of the Home Ministry has been instructed to monitor from Srinagar rescue and relief operations in the state.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley exhorted for a "national effort" to support the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their hour of crisis and lauded the role of Indian Armed Forces in rescuing people stranded in the flood-hit areas.
"Lets have a national effort to support the people of the flooded state in this hour of crisis.
"Our armed forces are leaving no stone unturned to rescue people stranded in the flood hit Jammu & Kashmir," he said on Twitter.