People patrol banks, repair breaches; govt departments asked to pull up socks
Srinagar: The terrible memories of 2014 returned in Kashmir as people bracing themselves for another flood due to possible breaches in the Jhelum embankments. Thousands of people in low-lying areas have already fled their houses and the MeT department has forecast more rain in coming days.
According to locals, hundreds of families fled their homes on Saturday in many south Kashmir areas and low-lying localities of Srinagar. Residents of Mehjoor Nagar, Kursu Rajbagh, Shivpora, Sonwar, Padrethan, Lasjan, Rajbagh and Jawahar Nagar areas were highly apprehensive of flood. These areas were the worst-hit during the 2014 floods.
The possibility of breaches near Kursu Rajbagh, Batwara, Shivpora, Lasjan, Pampore and Sempora localities created panic among the residents and many of them shifted to safer places. Last year, nearly ten breaches had made the streams direct hit houses in these areas.
Anxious residents were seen roaming around the Jhelum embankments at Mehjoor Nagar, Batwara, Shivpora, Padrethan and Galander to gauge the mood of the Jhelum waters.
People alleged that government didn’t learn any lesson from the 2014 floods as the authorities turned deaf ears to their repeated requests.
“We don’t want to take any risk this time because we have suffered hugely in 2014. Most of the houses in our neighbourhood are already under water, which seeped through a weak embankment on Friday. It created panic and forced us to shift our belongings to upper floors. We are now planning to move to safer places,” Mehraj-ud-Din of Kursu Rajbagh told Kashmir Reader.
Another resident, Nisar Ahmad, said his family had to survive without food, drinking water for days together in the last flood.
“It was a big humanitarian issue. No one came to our help. This year situation is not that grim but the 2014 scare is still fresh in our minds, so we have deserted our houses already,” he said.
Nisar Ahmad blamed the Roads & Buildings department for abandoning the under-construction embankment near Kursu Rajbagh-Aramwari.
“This is an important location with regards to flood control because the banks usually breach at many points here. In 2014 also, there was a serious damage to the embankment but the R&B Department didn’t complete the construction of the bank, even though there was prediction of heavy rains in July,” he said.
An official of the Irrigation and Flood Control department said that many works have been left incomplete by contractors of the R&B department, which had led to a serious situation in uptown areas
“There is serious negligence by the R&B Department but the Flood Control department is facing the blame. Alhumdulillah! We have saved the area by repairing the bank with sand and mud bags,” he said.
A similar situation had arisen in Mehjoor Nagar, Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar and Lasjan areas where rising water level in the Jhelum created panic among residents.
Muntazir Ahmad of Jawahar Nagar said that many houses in his locality were vulnerable to collapse. “We started vacating our houses soon after the announcement was made that flood has been declared in central Kashmir. There is high risk of damage to many houses even if there is less rain,” he said.
In Mehjoor Nagar, shopkeepers emptied their shops and shifted merchandise. “We can’t put our business into water,” said Riyaz Muhammad, a shopkeeper.
DS Bali, a resident, said the situation is not scary but people are on their toes since Friday.
“Government wakes up late, so we are not banking on them,” he said.
There was a minor breach in the bund of river Jhelum at Lasjan Bridge, which was immediately plugged by locals and non-local workers.
“Flood Control officials came this morning and joined us to plug the breach. Luckily, we could prevent the overflow,” said a local.
In downtown Fateh Kadal, water of the Jhelum entered houses. An elderly resident, Shamas-Din, said that incessant rains would be enough to inundate areas close to the banks.
“There is high risk for those living behind deteriorating walls, where breaches happened last year. Officials of Irrigation and Flood Control are not confident themselves, how can they assure us of safety?” he asked.
Floods killed at least 200 people in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014. Much of the deluge occurred due to major breaches in Jhelum embankments.
Chief Engineer, I&FC department, MM Shahnawaz said the threat of flood is still looming over Kashmir as water level is above the danger mark in Ram Munshi Bagh. However, he expressed hope that “water level in Jhelum will start receding by midnight in Srinagar”.
“Water level is continuously receding at Sangam gauge. It will start receding in Srinagar also. Our officials are on job to prevent any exigency,” he said.
The chief engineer blamed RAMKI and R&B department for breaches in Pampore and Kursu Rajbagh, respectively.
“In Pampore, the bridge construction by RAMKI has led to the minor breach. Similarly, the road which is being constructed in Kursu Rajbagh led to a serious situation for the bank. But, both the breaches have already been repaired,” he said.
About Lasjan and Sempora, the situation was also under control due to timely action by locals and officials, he said.
SITUATION UNDER CONTROL IN SOUTH KASHMIR
According to officials, south Kashmir areas are now “out of danger” as the water level in Jhelum began showing a downward trend on Saturday.
In Pampore, locals and officials prevented a major breach near Galander using sand and mud bags.
As per locals, timely action by authorities saved Pampore town from a fresh deluge. In 2014, the town faced the worst flood situation.
“The authorities woke up from deep slumber only after incessant rains. Earlier, they didn’t pay any heed to our requests of strengthening the banks,” locals said.
On Friday, several areas of district Anantnag had already been inundated following many breaches in Aripath Nallah. However, Deputy Commissioner, Younis Malik told Kashmir Reader that “the situation is under control”.
“There were flash floods at some places in Kapran area of the district but there is no need to panic as the water levels have now receded. The inundated areas are clear of water now,” he said.
The Jhelum waters also breached embankments at Sangam. However, the authorities repaired the damage using sand bags.
In Kulgam district, at least two diversions and a road were cut-off by Vaishaw Nallah isolating several villages including Asthal and Adijan. Officials said that Kulgam-Chambgund road has also been washed away.
The Asthal village, as per reports, has been completely cut off. Local sources told Kashmir Reader that volunteers from across Kulgam have shown up to help the administration in evacuating the stranded villagers.
The Vaishaw had also overflowed near Gofbal in Qaimoh area of the district, bringing the traffic to a complete halt. The water receded by afternoon and traffic was through on the road. Deputy Commissioner Kulgam, Sajad Hussain Ganai, told Kashmir Reader that “the situation is now under control”.
“The water levels have gone down by at least 3 to 4 feet. There is no need to worry. But, people should stay away from the Vaishaw Nallah to avoid any mishap,” Ganai told Kashmir Reader.
Governor NN Vohra has reviewed flood preparedness with Advisor BB Vyas and officers from other departments on multiple occasions.
He has directed the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and all Deputy Commissioners of Kashmir division to establish Control Rooms and notify helpline numbers for the general public.
He said a team of officers from the Irrigation and Flood Control Department carried out a safety audit of the embankments of the rivers and Nallahs. Chief Engineer I&FC Kashmir has been directed to deploy teams all along the river embankments to ensure that all vulnerable spots are treated and immediately strengthened.
Secretary I&FC also undertook an extensive tour of Sangam area for assessment of the situation.
People living along the embankments of river Jhelum, ‘nallahs’ and low-lying areas of south Kashmir have been asked to remain vigilant.
Many parts of Kashmir have been receiving heavy rainfall since the last two days. The first batch of pilgrims on Amarnath Yatra was also halted at Baltal on Thursday due to severe waterlogging.
Incessant rain in the Baltal Sonamarg area in Ganderbal district and Nunwan Pahalgam area in Anantnag district has made the roads slippery and unsafe.
A flood alert has been sounded by officials after the Darhali river in Rajouri district overflowed on Friday.
Meanwhile, the authorities announced that all schools in Kashmir division will remain closed as a precautionary measure.
“In view of the incessant rains, inclement weather and as a precautionary measure all schools in Kashmir division to remain closed today,” Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Syed Abid Shah said.
Following the alarming situation of Jhelum and other water bodies, the top administration announced emergency in all districts.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, told reporters that the government has taken every possible step to avert a flood situation in Srinagar and other vulnerable districts.
“We are on our toes and we have alerted every person of the concerned department’s including disaster management, police and irrigation and flood control department to deal with any untoward situation,” he said.
14 EMERGENCY CENTRES SET UP IN SRINAGAR, PAMPORE
The government on Saturday asked people not to panic as all precautionary measures have been taken by the divisional administration.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, at a meeting convened at the Joint Control Room established in Hari Niwas reviewed the status of arrangements put in place by different departments.
Khan asked officers of the line departments to mobilise men and machinery for making Emergency Centres (EC) functional. These centres have been identified at different locations in Srinagar city and Pampore.
He asked them to make available ration, medicines and medical staff, blankets, drinking water, tents, trucks, boats and other eatables at every centre.
He asked officers of PDD to make alternate arrangements of electricity by way of keeping one generator available at each centre.
The Divisional Commissioner said the Emergency Centres have been established for accommodating the people in case any eviction is required.
He said 14 sites have been identified for establishing Emergency Centres which will start functioning in the afternoon.
STAY CALM, BE CAUTIOUS: SONAM LOTUS
Sonam Lotus, who heads the meteorological department in Jammu & Kashmir, asked people to stay calm but at the same time be cautious as the next 12 hours are crucial.
Lotus said: “As expected, the weather has improved significantly and most of the cloud masses moved away from our state. Rainfall has stopped at most places of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Since rainfall has stopped, we hope that the apprehension of a major flood is no more now. But, still, next 12 hours are going to be crucial.”
He said that there is no major rainfall activity for next 24 hours, but rainfall at isolated places cannot be ruled out.
Issuing advisory for the people, Lotus said: “Stay calm, be cautious, remain vigilant, share facts and not rumours. There is no harm in being prepared than being caught unaware.”
He said that for any query, people can contact 0194-2430112.
with inputs from SUHAIL SHAH