Jammu- Rescue operations were underway on Thursday to trace 20 people missing after a cloudburst hit Honzar village in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir with authorities pressing more teams into action.
Seven persons were found dead and 17 others were rescued in an injured condition after the remote village was struck by the cloudburst in the early hours of Wednesday, damaging 21 houses, cow sheds, a ration depot, a bridge and a mosque.
The officials said the joint rescue operation by police, Army and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) is going on in full swing to locate the missing people, including nine women.
Director General of Police-cum-Commandant General Home Guard, Civil Defence and SDRF, V K Singh said a team comprising SDRF and NDRF personnel left Jammu at 5:45 AM by road for Kishtwar, while another joint team is leaving Srinagar shortly to join the rescue operation.
Two more teams comprising SDRF and NDRF personnel are at the Jammu and Srinagar airports waiting for the weather to improve to get airlifted, he said.
He said three teams of the SDRF have already joined the rescue effort and efforts are on to locate the missing persons.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) made an attempt to airlift one of the teams on Wednesday but returned to the technical airport in Jammu due to inclement weather.
Additional Director General of Police, Jammu zone, Mukesh Singh rushed to Kishtwar by road on Wednesday night and visited the injured persons at district hospital, a police official said.
Singh along with divisional commissioner Jammu Raghav Langer was also on board the IAF chopper which attempted to take the SDRF team to the affected village.
The Jammu and Kashmir government had announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each for the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the incident and Rs 50,000 each and Rs 12,700 under SDRF to the grievously injured persons.
The J&K government would do everything possible to support and protect the affected families. In such trying times, it is our duty to care for those who have been unfortunately affected by these natural calamities,” Lt Governor Manoj Sinha had said.
Director, Meteorological department, Sonum Lotus said no major rain occurred during the night across Jammu and Kashmir.
Right now weather is generally cloudy at most places and is likely to become partly cloudy towards afternoon. Occasional light rain possible at some places during the day, he said.
Most parts of Jammu region have been receiving incessant rains for the past few days and the Meteorological department has predicted widespread intermittent rain across Jammu and Kashmir till July 30.
Heavy to very heavy rain is possible at some places and may lead to flash floods, mudslide, landslide and water logging (in low lying areas). People are advised to remain alert as water level has risen in all rivers (owing to incessant rains), a spokesperson of the MET had said.
People have been advised to keep away from hilly, landslide and mudslide prone areas.
IAF Joins Rescue Operation
Indian Air Force (IAF) on Thursday made eight helicopter sorties with rescuers and relief material to cloudburst-hit Kishtwar district, officials said.
“Three IAF helicopters — one each from Jammu, Udhampur and Srinagar — were utilized for airlifting joint teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to Kishtwar,” Jammu-based Army PRO Lt Col Devender Anand told PTI.
He said the helicopters flew a total of eight sorties, transferring relief load of 2,250 kg, 44 NDRF and SDRF personnel, four medical assistants and transported two patients who are in critical condition from Sondar to Kishtwar for specialised treatment.
The IAF also made an attempt to airlift the joint team of NDRF and SDRF from the Jammu technical airport on Wednesday but bad weather forced the crew to return. Jammu Divisional Commissioner Raghav Langar and Additional Director General of Police, Jammu zone, Mukesh Singh were also on board the helicopter.
With the induction of the specialists from the NDRF and SDRF personnel along with sophisticated equipment, the rescue operation has intensified and efforts are on to locate the missing people, including nine women, the officials said, adding the chances of their survival seem bleak as they are believed to have been washed away by the strong current or buried under debris.
The officials said the success eluded the rescuers comprising police, Army, SDRF, NDRF and local volunteers from the village and adjoining areas throughout the day.
DGP-cum-Commandant General Home Guard, Civil Defence and SDRF, V K Singh said five of his teams along with NDRF personnel joined the rescue operation on Thursday.
“Two of our teams reached the scene on Wednesday itself and were joined by another team this morning. Two more teams comprising both SDRF and NDRF personnel left Jammu and Srinagar by road for Kishtwar, while another two teams were airlifted by the IAF,” he said.
The Jammu Divisional Commissioner and Additional DGP, Jammu zone, rushed to Kishtwar by road and supervised the rescue and relief operation along with Kishtwar District Development Commissioner Ashok Kumar Sharma.
The officials said the village, located on the banks of a stream and surrounded by mountains, can be reached by a three-hour trek from the last motorable road and is presenting a gloomy picture with wails of survivors filling the air.
“Shortly after the deafening sound of the cloudburst woke us up, we found ourselves caught in the flash floods,” Mohammad Jabbar, a local resident said.
He said many of the structures along with the inhabitants were swept away by the gushing waters.
Fayaz Ahmad, another resident, hailed police for reaching the scene soon after getting information.
“A police party was the first to reach the village followed by Army and SDRF teams. We are thankful to them for a prompt response,” he said, adding the Senior Superintendent of Police, Kishtwar, Shafqat Hussain Batt is camping in the village to personally lead the rescue operation.
A police spokesman said camps have been set up at Dangadooru and Soundar for receipt and despatch of the relief and rescue materials for the flood-affected people.
Special teams for this purpose have been formed and deputed from the District Police Lines Kishtwar, the official said.
The Jammu and Kashmir government had announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each for the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the incident and Rs 50,000 each, and Rs 12,700 under the State Disaster Response Fund to the grievously injured.
LG Assures All Possible Help To Affected
Meanwhile Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said on Thursday that his administration will extend every possible support to the families affected by the deadly cloudburst in Kishtwar district of the Union Territory.
“We cannot bring back the lives lost in the unfortunate incident. However, we will ensure the best possible assistance to the affected families. Our heartfelt sympathies are with the bereaved families,” Sinha said, as per an official spokesperson.
According to the official spokesperson, the LG also reiterated that the government is committed to improving power infrastructure in the UT.
“Power transmission and distribution system is being improved substantially. Despite our efforts, some areas in Jammu division remained affected during the last couple of months due to outages. We have identified the gaps. In order to provide uninterrupted and reliable power supply to all, we are introducing strict and innovative measures to meet various challenges in fulfilling energy needs of the people in future,” he said.