Committed to save all trapped in Kashmir: Hooda
UDHAMPUR: With improvement in weather conditions, army will intensify its rescue operation in flood-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir while focusing first on Srinagar city and South Kashmir where a large number of people remain trapped in their houses without any basic amenities.
Noting that the troops were facing several challenges in the operation ‘Megh Rahat’, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen D.S Hooda on Monday said they were trying to reach the people who were in the most precarious conditions as quickly as possible though they have received thousands of messages seeking help.
Talking to reporters at Udhampur-based Headquarters, Hooda said that situation in Jammu was limping back to normalcy and roads leading to other areas around Jammu would be restored within next 48 hours.
“As I said for the next 48 hours, our focus remains on Srinagar and south Kashmir because there are still large number of people who are stranded and who are without any food and water.
“It’s our idea to get them out as soon as possible. We will continue operation Megh Rahat till everyone is pulled out of this situation,” he said.
He also said that army has taken up repair of border fencing damaged in the worst floods in six decades as it apprehends that militants might take advantage of the situation to infiltrate into the State.
“They (militants) may come. So we have strengthened army’s presence in these areas. The repair work has immediately begun. We will do it very quickly,” he said.
Hooda assured the people that rescue operations will pick up as additional engineering teams and boats have arrived.
Asked about delay in relief and rescue operations in south Kashmir, he said they were affected by the inclement weather as the Valley was lashed by torrential rains for nearly five days.
He said, “Nobody thought it would rain incessantly for so long and the gushing water cut-off army’s boats in Srinagar and Banihal,” a small town in Jammu Division before entry to Kashmir.
The weather was so bad that no sortie could be taken till 5th September, Hooda said. .
The Commander said that army itself was badly affected as some of its posts in Akhnoor and Munawar in Jammu region had been badly damaged.
He said the Kashmir Valley was cut off from Jammu as well as from Leh. “We are hopeful of restoring traffic from Zozila pass on Srinagar-Leh Highway so that some supplies are moved from there,” he said.
“There are villages which have been marooned in different areas. Reaching them is not an easy job, it’s a difficult work,” Hooda said.
About Jammu-Srinagar Highway, Lt Gen Hooda said that road at ahead of Ramsoo was submerged in water and there were continuing landslides in the area.
He said army was working overtime to repair the National Highway and was hopeful that it would be cleared for traffic in four-five days if “weather holds up”.
Even though sorties for relief material are flying out tourists and others trapped in the Valley, it is difficult for people stranded in different places to reach airport because roads are under water, he said.
“The situation in Kashmir Valley still remains critical,” Lt Gen D.S Hooda, General-Officer-Commanding of the Army’s Northern Command, told reporters in Udhampur.
“In the next 48 hours our focus remains on Srinagar,” he said.
Giving details, Hooda said 200 columns have been dispatched to valley while 60 medical teams have set up their camps. Moreover, 9 army personnel who were trapped during rescue operation in valley have been rescued while two are still missing, Hooda informed.