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Modi leads rescue meet as flood waters recede

Flood waters receded in India’s Jammu and Kashmir, aiding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s record military rescue operation to save about 400,000 civilians stranded in the state.

Modi has sent “high-level” teams to Srinagar and the Kashmir valley to coordinate escalation of the relief mission after an emergency meeting on Wednesday, according to a government statement. Water levels are ebbing as rainfall eases after a downpour caused a river to burst its banks, killing at least 150 people, defence ministry spokesman S D Goswami said.

“We have really been overwhelmed,” the Press Trust of India cited the state’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as saying. “We have been overwhelmed by the scale of the problem.”

More than 300,000 military personnel, comprising soldiers and India’s National Disaster Response Force, continue to fly sorties and drop food and water to residents wading through the floods in temperatures that have dipped to as low as 7°Celsius.

While rescue efforts continued, anger grew among those not yet air-lifted to higher ground. One soldier was attacked by locals in the Kashmir valley while other personnel have been heckled, according to a report. Abdullah has rejected criticism that his government was not doing its job.

About 300 jets, helicopters and boats were deployed across the region, including the city of Jammu, rescuing more than 110,000 residents so far. Light vehicle traffic has resumed on a main road in the state; basic communications infrastructure is being reinstalled; and the armed forces were making a renewed effort to reach people in the worst-affected areas that remain difficult to access, Goswami said.

Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in Modi’s office, is leading a team of officers from India’s home ministry to oversee the rescue operation, spokesman K.S. Dhatwalia said by phone.

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