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Thousands stranded in J&K flood

Thousands of people still remain stranded in the Valley, where massive rescue operations were underway on a war footing on Monday after floods ravaged Jammu and Kashmir. Telecom links with Srinagar snapped adding to the miseries of the affected.

As the death toll in the worst flooding to hit the state in six decades inched towards 200, the Centre has rushed more National Disaster Response Forces (NDRF) teams equipped with boats and other relief equipment. Naval commandos were also deployed for the first time.

The Army, Air Force, NDRF and state agencies have so far rescued about 25,000 people and lodged them in higher places in the Valley.

There was only slight drizzle in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley on Monday in some relief after the state was pounded by rains since last Tuesday, even as the water level in many flood-hit areas slowly began to recede. The water level in Dal Lake in Srinagar is, however, rising.

“The situation in Kashmir Valley still remains critical,” Lieutenant General 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.

NDRF chief O P Singh said the flood situation in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley was “very acute”.

As dozens of boats were deployed in Srinagar by rescue agencies, desperate residents were huddled on rooftops and upper floors of their houses in several areas hoping to escape the flood waters.

The state government requsitioned for more boats, officials said. IAF choppers and transport aircraft undertook several sorties, as relief work was extended for the first time to South Kashmir.

The IAF deployed 45 aircraft and helicopters into action, a defence spokesman said.

The rescued included 1,400 Army personnel and their families caught in flood waters in its headquarters at Badamibagh cantonment in Srinagar.

The cantonment along with areas of Shivpora and Indranagar in Srinagar were submerged as the water level rose alarmingly due to a breach in the Jhelum river. With thousands of people trapped on second and third floors of houses or on the roof tops in several areas in the Valley, a defence spokesman said the Army plans to continue rescue operations even at night.

“Soldiers won’t return to the barracks until the last man is helped,” Army Chief General Dalbir Suhag said in Delhi.

The heavy floods triggered by torrential rains have snapped Valley’s telecommunication links with the rest of the country even as BSNL launched an operation on a war footing with Army and IAF to restore mobile services through satellite network. Internet connectivity was down. Officials said it may take up to 72 hours for telecom links to be restored. The military machinery and government authorities have taken recourse to satellite phones.

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