Rajnath Singh Reviews Situation, Massive Rescue Operation Under Way

6 September 2014
Times of India
Bharti Jain

New Delhi: Union home minister Rajnath Singh, who toured Jammu & Kashmir on Saturday to review the situation arising out of the floods, has assured all possible central assistance to the state government to overcome the crisis and ensure relief and rehabilitation of the affected population. This came even as Army, Air Force and NDRF, along with the state administration, mounted a massive rescue and relief operation which, however, was marred by incessant rain. Accompanied by Union minister of state for personnel Jitendra Singh, Rajnath Singh on Saturday made an aerial survey of the affected areas in Jammu region. However, inclement weather forced him to settle for a road tour of Srinagar. Singh, soon after touching down in Srinagar, held a review meeting with J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, who apprised him of the situation arising out of the floods. The chief minister gave an overview of the measures taken by the state administration for rescue and evacuation of people from the submerged areas. The home minister assured Abdullah of all possible central assistance. He said an interministerial team would be sent to the state to assess the damage on account of the floods. J&K has been advised to use Rs 1,100 crore of State Disaster Relief Fund to deal with the calamity, 90 per cent of which is met by central grant. The Centre on Saturday announced Rs 2 lakh each as immediate relief to the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each for the injured, apart from advising the state government to send a memorandum on the damage incurred due to the floods, once the situation eases. 'The floods have caused a lot of damage. If this is the condition of city, what will be the situation in rural areas? I was told that this has happened after 50-60 years,' Singh told reporters after being driven around the water-logged city of Srinagar by chief minister Abdullah. In the Jammu region, Singh made an aerial survey of some areas in Akhnoor tehsil. The chief minister on Saturday told the Centre that the top concern of the state government is to ensure safety of human lives and evacuate the population trapped in the submerged areas. As per the latest assessment, as many as 390 villages have been completely submerged in the Valley and around 1,225 are partially affected. In Jammu, around 1,000 villages are flooded. Abdullah said that the assessment of losses will be made on a war footing as soon as the water recedes. However, he informed that paddy and fruit crop have been destroyed by the floods, even as vegetables, maize and other crops have also suffered. The chief minister said public infrastructure, private property and residential houses had been damaged. According to Army officers, by Sunday evening, they had deployed 110 columns across the state. Another 30 columns were on standby. The NDRF has deployed 8 teams, comprising around 320 personnel. The Army and NDRF together had rescued around 16,000 people by Saturday evening. Army had housed over 2,000 people in temporary shelters. Helicopter operations to rescue stranded people were disrupted through most of Saturday because of incessant rain and heavy clouds. However, six sorties by Mi-17 IV and Mi-17 V-5 were launched from Jammu that evacuated over 100 people, including 3 children. 'Many of them were stranded on rooftops, marooned in the floods,' an IAF spokesperson said. The IAF has assigned aircrafts at its bases at Agra, Chandigarh, Suratgarh and Sarsawa, apart from those in J&K area, for the relief operation. The Air Force said that it has mounted several sorties of transport aircraft, both IL-76 and AN-32, over the past two days, flying in NDRF personnel and equipment from Bhatinda to Jammu & Kashmir's various air bases. The NDRF teams have so far rescued 2,658 persons in operations across Pulwama, Jammu, Naugam and Awantipur.