J&K gears up for lurking health emergency, over two lakh people rescued

 With the threat of disease outbreak lurking in flood-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir, efforts have been initiated on a war-footing to provide medical staff and medicines even as rescue operations were slightly hampered today due to return of rains in the Valley.

Srinagar: With the threat of disease outbreak lurking in flood-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir, efforts have been initiated on a war-footing to provide medical staff and medicines even as rescue operations were slightly hampered today due to return of rains in the Valley.

Armed forces and National Disaster Relief Force have rescued over two lakh trapped people as the operations entered the 13th day today. Over one lakh people are still marooned after the worst floods in the state in a century unleashed a trail of death and destruction, claiming at least 250 lives.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took a detailed review of the health-related relief measures at a meeting with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah here and senior officials and said all assistance will be provided to the state authorities to tackle any possible epidemic.

Though the flood waters have receded, the filth that has accumulated across the Valley, including carcasses of animals, along with lack of clean drinking water posed a serious challenge to health authorities which have issued advisories, rushed doctors, paramedics and medicines and were carrying out mass immunisation against measles. The Centre has also been sounded to dispatch more assistance.

Mild rainfall occurred in many parts of the Valley this morning, stalling air operations for a couple of hours.

As it struggled to reach all the stranded people, the IAF helicopters have also encountered problems of stone pelting in some areas while rescuing and airdropping relief material.

One helicopter was hit by a stone, prompting the force to change its strategy after which choppers maintained a safe distance from the ground.

"We understand that people are angry. Even in a family, sometimes children get angry. But we are there to help out," Air Vice Marshal Upkarjit Singh said.

Two battalions of Armed Police have also been airlifted from Jammu to Kashmir Valley for maintaining law and order.

Police department has restored its communication system in flood affected areas of Srinagar city.

The Chief Minister said that 60 per cent power supply in Kashmir division, 85 per cent in Jammu region has been restored. He also directed concerned departments to double the ration supply to the Valley.

Private telecom operator Aircel, which has 2.1 million customers in Jammu and Kashmir region, said it has restored its 2G services in most part of the Valley.

Aircel's 2G services are operating in Anantnag, Shopian, Bandipora, Kulgam, Pulwama, Srinagar, Budgam, Bonigam and Ganderbal. Aircel 3G services are also up and running, it said in a statement.

With the state administration slowly finding its feet, Chief Secretary M I Khanday has asked government employees to report to duty as soon as possible and help restore services.

The message was read out on Radio Kashmir with the anchor saying "if you don't pay heed to this appeal, please listen to your conscience".

The devastating floods in Jammu and Kashmir have caused an immediate loss of Rs 5,400-5,700 crore to the state's economy, with heavy damage to trade, hotels, restaurants, horticulture and handicraft, according to initial estimates of industry body Assocham.

The state was staring at massive reconstruction efforts, starting with steps to prevent health emergencies that usually accompany such calamities.

Thirteen tonnes of water purifying tablets and six water filtration plants with a capacity to filter 1.2 lakh bottles per day have already reached Srinagar, an official said.

"Our focus is on provision of medicines and water- purifying medicines like chlorine and lakhs of chlorine tablets have been distributed. We have asked municipalities to activate the sanitation system. Our primary concern is rescue and provision of food, prevention of diseases and epidemics is our priority," Saleem-ur Rehman, Director, Health Services, said

With civic bodies almost defunct over the past two weeks due to the deluge, people of flood-hit Kashmir have started burning heaps of garbage gathered in many parts of the Valley

"We do not know how long it will take the government and other concerned agencies to start getting into action.

"There is a strong possibility of epidemic outbreak even in areas not affected by floods due to accumulation of the garbage," Bashir Ahmad Khan, a resident of Baghat, said.

Similar efforts are underway in Rawalpora, Rangreth and Hyderpora areas on the outskirts of the city.

Officials said suction pumps and other engineering equipment from Vishakhapatnam have also reached the flood affected area for. Twelve sewage pumps from Delhi have also been dispatched to the Valley.

Also, thirty generator sets of 3 to 5 KVA capacity have been sent to Srinagar to provide continuous power supply in relief camps and field hospitals

Besides these, as many as 8,200 blankets and 1,119 tents have been provided to the flood victims. 80 medical teams of the Armed Forces Medical Services are already operating in full swing.

Four field hospitals have been established in Avantipur, Pattan, Anantnag and Old Airfield and they have treated more than 22,500 patients.

Military medical services from Bathinda have also been shifted to Srinagar. About 10 tonnes of medicines and other health care materials, including mobile oxygen generation plant, have reached Srinagar from Delhi.

More relief materials, including blankets and tents, water bottles from IRCTC and food packets, are being airlifted from Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Baroda and Amritsar.

Eighty six transport aircraft and helicopters of Indian Air Force and Army Aviation Corps are continuing rescue and relief operations. Army has deployed around 30,000 troops for rescue and relief operations, of which 21,000 troops are deployed in Srinagar region and 9,000 troops in Jammu region.

Armed Forces personnel are distributing water bottles and food packets on a large scale, an official said

Till now, more than 4,00,000 litres of water, 1,31,500 food packets and over 800 tonnes of cooked food have been airdropped and distributed in the flood-affected areas.

A total of 224 boats of Army and 148 NDRF's inflatable boats have also been put into service.

Armed Forces have also established 19 relief camps in Srinagar and Jammu region.

"In Srinagar region, camps were established at BB Cantt, Avantipur, Old Airfield, Sumbal, Chattargam and Jijamata Mandir, where thousands of rescued people are being sheltered," a spokesperson said.

To restore road connectivity, five task forces of Border Roads Organisation, which include 5700 personnel, have been deployed in Srinagar, Rajouri and Akhnoor, he said.

They have restored the road connectivity from Batote?Kishtwar, Kishtwar-Anantnag and Jammu-Poonch. On the Jammu?Srinagar highway, BRO personnel have cleared the road upto 172 km, he said.

In view of the rainfall and dense clouds this snorning, IAF halted its flights to ferry relief supplies even though emergency operations of transporting medicines were maintained, IAF officials said, adding normal relief operations by IAF choppers resumed at 11.15 AM.

SDM, Srinagar, Syed Abid Rasheed Shah said that inclement weather will create problems as many people are still on the roads and without shelter.

At some places, people are putting up in tents which are not waterproof, he said.

IMD Director B P Yadav said, "There was mild rainfall in the morning. But, we have not issued any warning. There would be no heavy rainfall in the state today."

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