Massive relief operations are underway in Jammu and Kashmir where floods have claimed over 150 lives and left lakhs stranded.
Naval marine commandos were deployed for the first time on Monday in the massive multi-agency rescue operations that were underway in flood-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir with the grim situation in the Valley further compounded by snapping of telecom links.
There was no fresh rainfall in the Valley on Monday after the state was pounded by rains since Tuesday but the water level in Srinagar and some other towns devastated by floods has not receded posing a challenge to rescue agencies in evacuating tens of thousands of stranded people. Large parts of Srinagar were deep in water and dozens of boats were deployed.
Desperate residents were huddled on rooftops and upper floors of their houses in several areas as they tried to escape the worst flooding in the state in six decades that has already claimed more than 150 lives.
Indian Air Force choppers and transport aircraft undertook several sorties as relief work was extended for the first time to South Kashmir with nearly 22,000 people being evacuated so far, including 2,000 people from Srinagar city and adjoining areas. IAF has deployed 45 aircraft and helicopters into action, a Defence spokesman said.
The rescued included 1,400 army personnel and their families caught in flood waters in its headquarters at Badamibagh cantonment in Srinagar. The cantonment along with areas of Shivpora and Indranagar in Srinagar were submerged as the water level rose as high as 18 feet due to breach in the Jhelum river.
“We are facing a big problem of communication as all links are down. We are not able to communicate with our teams sent on ground in this flood-ravaged areas. Also, as water level is high in many places our personnel are not able to reach the stranded,” National Disaster Response Force chief OP Singh said in Delhi.
“We have launched a massive operation in the state and divided the state into three zones for smooth conduct of operations. Each zone will be headed by a commandant-rank officer and there will be an overall supervision of a DIG,” he said.
A total of 5,183 people have been rescued till now from the flood waters, which include children and women, he said.
The NDRF Director General said massive operations are being undertaken in the submerged areas of Goglibagh, Batmalu, Badami Bagh and Bakshi Stadium area of state capital Srinagar apart from other areas. He said over 13 bodies have also been recovered by NDRF teams in the state till now, he said. Over 500 satellite phones have also been dispatched to aid rescuers deployed in both Jammu and Kashmir Valley areas, he said.
An IAF officer said the situation in Jammu sector was under control but in Srinagar it was yet to improve. The weather in Srinagar remained cloudy, he said.
Defence spokesman Col S D Goswami said the number of army columns deployed have increased to 212. One army column consists of 75 to 100 troops.
Navy commandos joined the massive rescue operations being carried out by Army, IAF and NDRF rescuing around 200 stranded people on the Srinagar-Sopore Highway. Naval diving teams are also on standby at New Delhi, Mumbai and Vishakhapatnam for the rescue efforts.
Sixty-five medical teams and 15 Engineer Task Forces have been deployed and airlifting of four additional ETFs and 10 medical teams is also underway, Goswami said.
The ETF teams are being rushed from New Delhi to the flood -affected areas to bolster rescue efforts, he said, adding that these teams will carry boats and life-saving equipment.
“Relief operations are continuing with unabated intensity. 83 tonnes of emergency rations, 3,000 blankets, 45,000 litres of potable water, 1,000 life jackets and 220 tents are being airlifted from Chandigarh, Pathankot and Kanpur. The despatch of troops and rescue materials will continue in view of the task at hand. All available army aviation resources have been pressed into service,” he said.
The army has distributed 23,000-l of water and 600-kg of biscuits in the flood-affected areas along with 4,000 blankets and 90 tents. The spokesman said that 85 tonnes of medicines has been airlifted for the flood victims while 16 relief camps are being set up in different parts of the state.
As many as 1,245 people have been airlifted by Indian Air Force in its helicopters and transport aircraft, he said, adding that 140 sorties have been made by IAF choppers and planes with 155 tonnes of relief materials having been airdropped.
“The situation is being constantly monitored and progress of the events is updated at the office of the HQ IDS in New Delhi,” he said.
Meanwhile, even as the rescue operations continue, large-scale relief camps are being set up at Avantipur and Anantnag, Goswami said.
To cater to the people being evacuated from Srinagar, makeshift relief camps have been set up inside Badami Bagh Cantonment and the services of 92 Base Hospital, Srinagar, are being utilised.
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