J&K bracing for fresh spell of rains; flood toll 17

Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015,19:33 IST By metro vaartha A A A

Srinagar | Jammu and Kashmir was bracing for a fresh spell of rains as predicted by Met department, leading to nervousness among the people who were heaving a sigh of relief as flood situation was showing improvement today after causing the death of 17 people.
There has been no fresh rainfall over the past 24 hours which eased the flood concerns in the valley earlier in the day.
Water level in river Jhelum was also receding and it was flowing at 16.45 feet at Sangam in south Kashmir, down over six feet compared to 22.80 feet 24 hours earlier.
The water level at Ram Munshi Bagh in the city also reduced by more than one and a half feet and it was expected to drop further by the night.  However, the Met department has forecast light to moderate rains by tomorrow, raising fresh concerns among people who were hoping to see the end of woes caused by the floods that have already occurred.
Schools and colleges have been closed across the Valley in view of the flood threat and ongoing examinations have been postponed. However, University of Kashmir will hold examinations as per schedule from tomorrow in view of the improving flood situation, an official of the varsity said.
As rescue operations continued, the Centre said the flood situation in Jammu and Kashmir so far is not as grave as last year but authorities are on alert to deal with any situation. Situation is not as grave as last time. But we are fully alert and if required we will send more assistance, Home Minister Rajnath Singh told PTI in Bagdogra.
Meanwhile, six bodies were today recovered from the debris of four houses which collapsed in Laden village in Budgam district yesterday, taking the death toll in the incident to 16. Ten bodies had been recovered till last night.
One person trapped in the landslide is also feared dead but there was no confirmation.
One person had died in flash floods in Udhampur area of Jammu region.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who was rushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Valley yesterday to assess the situation there, presented his report to him today, suggesting a number of measures to address the problem permanently.
Heavy rainfall on Saturday and Sunday led to a sudden surge in the water level of Jhelum and its tributaries, causing panic among the residents of the Valley who have memories of the worst-ever floods in last September fresh in their minds.
Minister for Relief and Rehabilitations Syed Basharat Bukhari told the state Assembly in Jammu today that due to incessant rains since last many days various areas of district Budgam witnessed isolated incidents of landslides and district administration took immediate steps to evacuate people from vulnerable areas to safer places.
He said that 221 families were evacuated from various areas and lodged in tents provided by the district administration and also in the government buildings situated in safer places in the respective areas. All necessary steps to provide free ration, water and basic amenities are being taken so as to ensure that the evacuated people do not face any sort of inconvenience, he said.  He said that 64 families preferred to stay with their relatives instead of moving to tents and government buildings.
In Laden village, where 16 people died in house collapse caused by landslides, 16 families had already been evacuated due the threat of landslides, the Minister said. Of them, 13 families are putting up in tents and three families are staying with their relatives, he said.
On March 28, Deputy Commissioner, Budgam and Sub-Divisional Magistrate Chadoora personally monitored the process of evacuation of the people whose houses were vulnerable.  Bukhari said the spot where the houses collapsed was also visited by the Deputy Commissioner, Budgam, along with the locals of the area.  The inmates of the (ill-fated) houses continued to stay in their respective houses as they did not apprehend any landslide, he said.
He said that five family members of one Mohammad Shaban Hajam shifted to the house of Ghulam Nabi Hajam considering it as a safe place but unfortunately during the intervening night of March 29 and 30, the house collapsed and as a result 16 people died.
Naqvi, Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs who toured flood-affected areas of Srinagar and Baramulla and held meetings with officials of the state government, army and paramilitary forces besides meeting affected people, submitted his report to the Prime Minister here today.
Emerging from his meeting with Modi, he said the Prime Minister and the Central government are committed to support the state government in every way in dealing with the situation arising out of floods.
The Central government stands with the people and the government of Jammu and Kashmir in this hour of crisis and there is no need for people of the state to panic, he said.
The central government yesterday granted Rs 200 crore as immediate relief.
In his report, Naqvi is believed to have said that civil and military authorities are taking immediate steps to deal with the situation, which includes evacuation of affected people and efforts to plug the breaches in embankments in the river Jhelum.
In the long-run, he has said that the sewerage problem needs to be addressed, sources said.
He has also suggested strengthening of embankments of river Jhelum to prevent recurrence of floods, they said.
In his report, the Minister has said that illegal construction along the river and other actions hurtful to the environment are among the causes behind repeated flooding.
He is also believed to have told the Prime Minister that funds provided after floods in September last had not been utilised properly as a result of which the same areas have been affected again.
Naqvi has said that an action plan needs to be prepared by the state government outlining permanent solution to the problem.
Eight teams of National Disaster Response Force have been rushed to Kashmir and Armed forces, along with four helicopters, have been placed in readiness for deployment at short notice. The flood situation had its echo in the state Assembly with members of opposition National Conference and Congress staging a walkout, accusing the government of undue delay in rescue operations.
Two members of the ruling PDP Mushtaq Ahmed Shah and Zahoor Mir also staged a walkout protesting the non-availability of dewatering pumps in their constituencies. In September last year, 300 people had died and tens of thousands were left homeless when unprecedented floods hit the state.

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