7 Lakh Still Stranded, Rescuers Yet To Reach Poonch, Rajouri

9 September 2014
The New Indian Express
Yatish Yadav

New Delhi: Stranded by furious floodwaters, nearly 7 lakh residents of Jammu and Kashmir have been perched on rooftops since the disaster, triggered by incessant rain, tore through villages and major towns of the State last week. Heroic search-and-rescue efforts launched by the Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other Central forces have helped in evacuating around 52,300 people but the death toll continued to rise, touching 200 on Tuesday. NDRF director general O P Singh told Express that the situation remains critical in the State, suffering from the worst floods in the last 60 years. He added that the water level in Jhelum river was still rising and rescue boats can't be launched from the higher point. 'We airlifted six boats and launched it in Badamibagh area. Even the satellite communication is failing in certain pockets. We are also airlifting VSATs from Bangalore that hopefully will be activated on Wednesday. One NDRF team has also been dispatched towards rural pockets of Srinagar,' Singh said, adding that four teams were deployed for Pulwama but so far communication has not been established with them. Around 283 boats have been launched by the Army and NDRF teams to evacuate people in Srinagar and Jammu regions while 220 Army columns have been deployed. About 7,200 blankets and 210 tents were distributed among people shifted to higher places apart from 1 lakh litres of bottled water. NDRF officials said the situation in Jammu is stable but the worst-affected districts of Rajouri and Poonch remained cut off. The Valley, however, remains critical as water continued to flow above the danger mark. A senior paramilitary official said the evacuation from certain neighbouring localities of Srinagar was hindered as rescue workers were pelted with stones by flood victims who also tried to snatch their boats. 'They could have been agitated because of the situation, but we are going in risking our lives to evacuate as many people as possible,' the official added. According to Home Ministry officials, the Meer Bazar electricity distribution centre, which supplies power to the Valley, is completely submerged. Power can be restored only when the water recedes in the region. The government has rushed around 6,000 solar lanterns to the affected areas.