20 Killed in floods ; 50 feared dead as bus washed away
SRINAGAR/JAMMU: The toll in the incessant rains and flash floods in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday rose to 20, even as 45 others were feared dead after a bus carrying them was washed away in Rajouri district. Another report put the number of deaths at 50.
“So far 20 deaths have been reported in the State due to heavy rains and floods,” Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather told reporters at a joint press conference with Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand in Srinagar.
Giving the breakup of the figures, Rather said two deaths each have been reported from Anantnag, Baramulla and Budgam Districts in Kashmir Valley and seven from Poonch, six from Reasi and one from Doda in Jammu region.
He said a bus carrying nearly 50 people, mostly members of a marriage party, was washed away in flash floods of Gambhir River in Rajouri District in Jammu region.
He said while three persons had been rescued till now, around 45 people are feared dead. Rescue efforts were on till late evening, he said.
Rather said 150 houses have been damaged in the floods.
“More than 50 houses are submerged in Anantnag District.
15 villages in Kulgam District are also inundated,” he said.
The minister said around 1,500 people were trapped in Asthal village in Kulgam and steps were being taken for their safety.
Rather said the State Government has requisitioned helicopter services, but the choppers could not operate due to bad weather.
“Army and State Disaster Response Force are helping in rescue operations,” he said.
He said many water bodies were flowing above danger mark and many areas were inundated.
“The river Jhelum is flowing seven feet above the danger mark at Sangam in south Kashmir and Ram Munshi Bagh in Srinagar,” he said.
The minister said a breach occurred at Kandizal area of Budgam, but it was plugged timely, saving 70,000 people from inundation.
“Many streams like Lidder in Pahalgam, Veshav, Rambiara, Feroz Nallah are flowing above danger mark and have inundated and damaged areas along their banks, affecting 70 villages,” Rather said, adding the water discharge was at 70,000 cusecs against the normal of 25,000 cusecs.
He said Chenab river in Akhnoor area of Jammu division is flowing four feet above the danger level.
The minister said 500 water supply schemes have been disrupted in the Valley with Anantnag, Baramulla, Kulgam and Shopian bearing the worst brunt.
He said a meeting of the state Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah deferred the normal agenda and sanctioned Rs 20 crore for rescue and relief operations.
Rather also said the State Government has sought an NDRF team from the Centre and the personnel were already on their way to the state.
The Deputy Chief Minister said, “Our first priority is to ensure safety of the people and provide them proper shelter and other arrangements.”
He said the local administration was taking all necessary steps to provide relief to the people in the areas which have been cut-off from the rest of the State.
He further said the government has announced closure of all educational institutions for three days.
In Jammu, police said Army Sepoy Balbir Singh was washed away during a rescue operation in Poonch on Thursday.
A BSF officer was buried alive yesterday in the district which was hit by landslides triggered by flash floods.
The State Government issued a red alert in Jammu region where most of the rivers are flowing above danger mark.
As many as 128 people have been rescued in various areas by army teams, taking the total number of those evacuated since yesterday to 236, a defence spokesman said.
Apart from BSF officer Inspector Mohammad Rashid, two persons were killed in Poonch and five others, including three children, lost their lives in Reasi District yesterday.
Over 100 houses and buildings have suffered damage in Rajouri and Udhampur Districts, official reports said.
Jammu-Srinagar National Highway remained closed along with several inter-districts road in Doda, Ramban, Rajouri and Poonch Districts due to floods, the reports added.
Some Vaishnodevi pilgrims were injured in landslides in the Trikuta Hills in Reasi District, officials said.
Authorities have ordered closure of all educational institutions on Thursday and tomorrow in Poonch and Rajouri Districts.
A control room has been set up at Ramban District headquarters and all Sub-Divisional Magistrates and Tehsildars have been asked not to leave their headquarters.
District authorities in Rajouri have asked people not to venture near swollen rivers.
Meanwhile, reports from Rajouri said that a bus carrying over 50 people, mostly members of the marriage party, was crossing the Laam-Darhal-Moushera Road when it got washed away in the flash floods in Gambhir river.
An army unit, which immediately reached the spot after the mishap, rescued four people who had jumped off the bus, those rescued included the driver and conductor of the bus, , a senior army officer said.
The army immediately rushed a rescue column with specialist engineering staff, recovery vehicle and medical van to retrieve individuals almost all of whom are feared dead, the officer said in a statement here.
The four survivors were administered first aid, he said, adding rescue operations were on till late in the evening.
The driver told the army team that there were nearly 50 people in the bus, the officer said.
The army has launched an operation to search and rescue the victims, he said.
Confirming that 50 people were feared dead, SSP Mubasir Latiffee, also rushed to the spot along with a police team for the rescue work.
BJP State Chief and MP from Jammu Jugal Kishore Sharma has expressed great shock and anguish over the unprecedented loss of property and life due to heavy rains and flash floods in Jammu region.
He demanded prompt relief and help to the flood hit people.
State Congress Chief and MP Saifuddin Soz expressed deep shock over the bus tragedy in Rajouri District and conveyed condolences to the bereaved families.
PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti also expressed grief over the bus mishap.
Meanwhile, a truck was also washed away in flash floods in Noushera of Rajouri District, police said, adding details of the incident were awaited.
Minister of State for Home Sajjad Ahmed Kichloo expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in the bus mishap.
Kichloo also expressed grief over the 20 deaths due to floods in various districts including Poonch, Reasi, Doda, Anantnag, Baramulla and Budgam.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday condoled the loss of lives in Jammu and Kashmir floods and sanctioned Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condoled the loss of lives in the floods in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
“PM has sanctioned Rs 2 lakhs for the next of kin of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for each of the seriously injured, from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund,” a statement from the PMO said.