KASHMIR: Emergency workers battled on Monday to prevent waterborne diseases from spreading, as fetid water swilled around the Kashmir valley more than a week after the region’s worst flooding in more than a century.
More than 75,000 people were still stuck in partly submerged homes in Srinagar, where roads have been transformed into stagnant canals strewn with sewage, wreckage and dead livestock.
“Floating carcasses have become a big source of worry with most houses still waterlogged. We are struggling to get in touch with government health officials,” said Abul Syed Rahman, who owns three hotels in Kashmir.
Flooding and landslides have killed hundreds of people and tens of thousands are homeless. The cost of damage in Kashmir may run into billions of dollars.
The central government said it feared a rise in the number of people getting sick from dirty water and had delivered 25 water filtration plants with the capacity to filter 400,000 litres a day, and 13 tonnes of water purification tablets.
More than 200,000 people have been rescued in the past eight days and communication networks partially restored.
“Finally, we are seeing some government officials trying to restore basic services. In the last eight days we had no help from the government,” said Alam Wani, a Srinagar bank official.
Wani’s two-storey house has been partially submerged since the onset of torrential rain, forcing him to move into a mosque with his family of eight.
Hospitals were themselves hit by flooding when the swollen Jhelum river burst its banks, with staff scattered around the city and unable to get to work.
Doctors were running out of medicines and surgical equipment as they struggled to provide emergency services in makeshift medical centres.
“Our medical headquarters is totally under water. It is very difficult to deal with critical cases. Thousands of patients need antibiotics and diabetics require insulin,” Dr Hina Rahman said.
Doctors warned that getting waterlogged hospitals working again would be tough because basement store rooms were flooded and expensive equipment like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-ray machines ruined.
People have been coming in with respiratory infections and gastric problems, said Zubair Khwaja, a doctor who normally works at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences but has been volunteering with the Muslim Students Board, a group that runs a religious school in Srinagar.
Municipal authorities said they had started collecting rubbish from pools of stagnant water and the fire department was using fire engines to pump out waterlogged areas.
The stench of rotting carcasses of cattle was almost unbearable for people in some parts of Srinagar, a city of more than a million people.
With acres of stagnant water remaining in the city, Khwaja warned that the risk of waterborne diseases would increase. “You can smell the air,” he said.
Court order: Food, medicine for all
The Supreme Court asked the Jammu and Kashmir Government to take more steps for the rehabilitation of flood victims by making more food, water, medicines and fuel available to them.
According to reports, the apex court has also asked the state government to consider the grant to be of ex-gratia to those affected by the floods.
The Indian Meteorological Department (MeT) earlier in the day said that the weather in flood-hit Jammu and Kashmir is likely to remain clear as the possibility of rain is less.
As the flood water has started receding, the apprehension for the water-borne diseases is raising. The demand for filtered water has also increased.
Thirteen tonnes of water purifying tablets and six water filtration plants with a capacity to filter 1.2 lakh bottles per day were sent earlier to Srinagar.
Along with the heavy duty suction pumps, twenty RO plants with a capacity to filter four lakhs litres per day from Hyderabad and four RO plants from Delhi with a capacity to filter one lakh litres per day are being sent to Srinagar, on Monday.
More heavy duty suction pumps are being airlifted from Jodhpur and Raipur. Sewage pumps from Delhi have also been dispatched to the valley.
Thirty generator sets of three to five KVA capacity have also been sent to Srinagar to augment continuous power supply in relief camps and field hospitals.
Additional communication equipments of BSNL are being dispatched to restore the communication systems in the state.
To restore the road connectivity, five task forces of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which include 5700 personnel, have been deployed in Srinagar, Rajouri and Akhnoor.
Jammu & Kashmir Secretariat to resume
Jammu and Kashmir’s Civil Secretariat will start functioning from September 18 in Srinagar, the summer capital city.
The state Cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, decided that the government shall start functioning from the Civil Secretariat, Srinagar, from September 18, an official spokesman said on Monday.
The Cabinet also condoled the loss of lives in the unprecedented floods which have struck the state, he said.
Commiserations were also expressed with those injured and displaced during the floods and those who have suffered on account of the calamity, he said.
The Cabinet expressed complete solidarity with the flood- affected people and firmly resolved to rebuild livelihoods, private properties and public infrastructure, he said.
It was also decided that no holidays shall be observed on Saturdays and Sundays in the state government Offices in the Kashmir Valley, except Educational Institutions, till the closure of offices on account of Darbar Move, he said.
Considering the enormity of the clean up and sanitation operations in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation areas, it was decided to divide these areas into three zones and put three senior officers incharge of each zone for this purpose, the spokesman said.
The Housing and Urban Development department shall work out the details in this regard immediately.
Army denies discrimination
Refuting charges as “malicious and insidious” that preference was being given to tourists and out of state residents in their rescue efforts, Army said it is committed to the task at hand and does not discriminate on the basis of caste, religion, creed or region.
“Northern Command categorically refutes these charges as malicious and insidious (that Army in their rescue efforts, has been giving preference to tourists and out of state residents)”, a senior Army officer said on Monday.
Over the last few days, some individuals have been spreading the such rumours, he said.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the Army has launched spontaneous rescue operations as the first responders across the entire state, the officer said.
Rescue efforts were carried out without any regional distinction, in the highest traditions of the Indian Armed Forces, and the newspapers, social media and electronic media are providing ample evidence of the same, he added.
“Indian Army is committed to the task at hand and does not discriminate on the basis of caste, religion, creed or region”, the officer stressed.
In this humanitarian crisis, our boat patrols worked tirelessly through extremely difficult conditions, and the identity of the beleaguered members of the Awaam (people) was neither possible nor practical to ascertain during the rescue, he said.
These rescue efforts have now been joined by local volunteers, which is a welcome step, and were always launched in close concert with the civil administration and police, he said.
“Not a single specific case has been reported where persons were denied rescue or relief because of their ethnicity, region or social status,” he said.
“It is pertinent to mention that large parts of the state were addressed by our teams throughout this mammoth rescue and relief effort, including South Kashmir and Jammu region, wherein the population was primarily local residents.
The statistics speak for themselves.
“A difficult and challenging task lies ahead where everyone will require to work together to mitigate the effects of the natural disaster which struck the state”, the officer said.
Belittling the efforts of those who have sought to bring relief to the people will only distract from this important task at hand, he said. – From Reuters/The Asian Age