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Kashmir floods: Three soldiers killed in avalanche; hundreds stranded as deluge panic grips Valley

Three soldiers were killed and as many were injured after fresh snow triggered multiple avalanches in the Batalik sector in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday. Five other soldiers were trapped at an army post following the avalanches, of which two have been rescued so far.

Four civilians also lost their lives in the Valley on Thursday: Two of them, a father and a son, were hit by an avalanche in Kargil, while a woman was struck by lightning at Rajouri and a minor girl was swept away by flash-floods in Kupwara, officials said. Floods have inundated many parts of Kashmir, while the Ladakh region has witnessed heavy snowfall.

Mohammad Yusuf, 56, owner of a houseboat on Jhelum, said he is ready to move out because of the floods. Picture: Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Mohammad Yusuf, 56, owner of a houseboat on Jhelum, said he was ready to move out. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

The Jammu and Kashmir government gave the flood declaration after water levels in River Jhelum crossed the 19-feet mark in Srinagar at 10 pm, with authorities asking people to remain vigilant. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to state chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on phone and offered all possible support in dealing with the flood situation in the Valley.

A hillock came crushing down on three houses in old Gagribal area of Dalgate from Zabarwan hills on Thursday evening. Miraculously, the inhabitants survived, with some sustaining mild injuries. Afterwards, the entire area was evacuated.

The devastation caused by the 2014 floods in the Valley has made people ultra-conscious about any change in the weather. Over the last two days, continuous rain and snowfall in the Valley has raised the water level of Jhelum river.

Residents were seen taking their cars to higher areas of Srinagar city. The Gupkar Road in Srinagar, which overlooks the city, was clogged with cars.

"This rising water levels remind of that terrible day in 2014 when Srinagar was marooned and our lives were destroyed," Mohammad Yusuf, 56, owner of a houseboat on Jhelum River in Srinagar, told Firstpost. "It is frightening, but we are ready to move out."

The government closed the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway for a third consecutive day – which connects the Valley with rest of India – due to landslides, leaving thousands of passengers stranded in the winter capital of Jammu.

A man walks on a pathway bridge in a park next to River Jhelum after the floods. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

A man walks on a pathway bridge in a park next to River Jhelum. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

On Thursday, people in Srinagar and around the Valley woke up to incessant rains and snowfall, the latter being unusual for the month of April. The state government advised people living near the Jhelum to take precautions, as the rising water level could lead to flooding in certain areas.

"Jhelum – the river of sorrow, known for its ravaging floods of 2014, now always keep Kashmiris on tenterhooks whenever it rains in the valley. The water level has crossed the danger mark and looks scary. The river may change its course at any time to become a raging torrent again, wreaking disaster on everything in its path. People residing close to the river need to remain vigilant," Mudasir Qazi, a resident, wrote on Facebook.

The state government closed all schools as the water levels in Jhelum were flowing above the danger mark at both gauges, in Sangam in South Kashmir and Ram Munshibagh in Srinagar. Cross-LoC trade between the two sides of Kashmir was also suspended as a number of goods-carrying trucks were stuck on both sides.

Several houses and a mosque were damaged in North Kashmir's Baramulla district as the rains continued to lash across the Valley. "The main town is entirely waterlogged. There is water everywhere you go. It is because of the faulty drainage system," Yakoob Lala, a resident of Baramulla, told Firstpost.

The fresh snowfall also impacted the election campaign in Srinagar and Anantnag, which go to polls on 9 and 12 April respectively. Traffic jams were witnessed throughout Srinagar as waterlogging made it almost impossible for the vehicles to ply on the roads.

"There is panic in the entire Valley as the rains have continued non-stop. The incessant rains have raised fear among people that another flood might occur," Ali Imran, a shopkeeper on Jhelum Road, said.

"The state has not learnt any lessons since the 2014 floods... otherwise, do you think three days of rainfall can block everything from the main roads to the link roads? We had asked for help in the morning but nothing has arrived yet," Shaheriyar Hussain, a resident of KP Road in South Kashmir’s Anantnag, said over phone.

The worst flood in a century had hit the Kashmir region in 2014, in which over 44 people were killed and 25 were injured, while 12,565 structures were damaged completely. Besides this, 862 cattle had also perished, the state government had said.

People in the Valley watch as the water level rises in River Jhelum because of the floods. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

People in the Valley watch as the water level rises in River Jhelum. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based environment research and advocacy organisation, said that these floods occurred because of "unplanned urbanisation" and lack of preparedness.

"It is a combination of an intense and unprecedented rainfall event combined with mismanagement (of drainage) and unplanned urbanisation and lack of preparedness," Sunita Narain, CSE director general, told reporters in New Delhi, after releasing a report on the Kashmir floods of 2014.

The state government at the time, led by Omar Abdullah, was caught unprepared and it almost crumbled under the weight of the devastating floods.

"There would be a gradual decrease in snow and rainfall activity from Thursday afternoon and improvement in weather will start from Friday," Sonam Lotus, director of the J&K Met department told IANS.

"Therefore, there is no need to panic, but at the same time, people living in low-lying areas might face inconveniences due to water logging and other problems allied with it," he added.

Updated Date: Apr 07, 2017 13:10 PM

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