Naval marine commandos were deployed for the first time today 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 today 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.
IAF 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.
With thousands of people trapped on the second floor, third floor or on the roof tops in several areas in the Valley, a Defence spokesman said Army plans to continue the rescue operations even at night.
Heavy floods have snapped Kashmir Valley’s telecommunication links with the rest of the country even as BSNL launched an operation on a war-footing with Army and IAF to restore mobile services through satellite network.
“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 O P Singh told reporters in Delhi.
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.