Situation ‘catastrophic’ in Srinagar: police

SRINAGAR: The death toll from flooding in India-held Kashmir climbed to 175 on Sunday, with homes, military bases and hospitals inundated in Srinagar.

The rain-swollen Jhelum river flooded large parts of the city and forced frantic residents onto rooftops, with reports saying the first floors of a children’s hospital and of another hospital were under water.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew over Kashmir valley to inspect the damage cause by floods. The worst flooding in 60 years has submerged villages and ruined crops in the disputed region.

“This is a national-level disaster,” Mr Modi said. He announced Rs11 billion ($180 million) in disaster relief payments, as well as compensation to victims and their relatives.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of J&K in this hour of crisis,” Mr Modi said in a tweet.

His visit comes in the build-up to state elections in the affected state of Jammu and Kashmir by the end of the year.

His nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is seeking to expand support beyond the mainly-Hindu lowlands of Jammu and oust regional leader Omar Abdullah, who was allied to India’s last government defeated by Mr Modi in May.

Although heavy rains abated on Saturday afternoon, floodwaters rose sharply overnight in Srinagar, a city of 900,000, catching many people living in low-lying areas unawares.

“I could not save anything as the government did not issue any flood warning,” said Abdul Aziz of Jawahar Nagar in Srinagar, who drove his family to safety when water entered their home at around 4am.

“The majority of my neighbours who were sleeping are still trapped in their homes,” he said.

A police official in Srinagar said he feared the true extent of the devastation was not yet known because phone networks were down and areas cut off.

“We are in a catastrophic situation,” he said, adding that Srinagar’s police headquarters was under water. “Many people may have died and houses collapsed but we are not getting to know much (information).”

Thousands of troops, police and other emergency personnel, backed by helicopters and boats, have been deployed across the disputed region to reach those stranded, with at least 11,000 people rescued.

“Thousands of people are still stranded and we have rescued several thousands,” police Inspector General of Jammu region, Rajesh Kumar, said.

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