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 on Sunday 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. 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 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 Sunday 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 KashmirValley for maintaining law and order. Police department has restored its communication system in flood affected areas of Srinagar city.
The CM 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.
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.
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, 30 generator sets 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.
-- With inputs from Mukhtar Ahmad