SRINAGAR: Eight people, including a toddler, teenagers, and two women, have died in separate incidents of landslides and flash floods triggered by a fresh spell of rainfall, which created havoc in the plains and triggered landslides and flash floods in the hilly parts of the Jammu region early Wednesday morning.
Police officials said that around 6.00 am, two houses collapsed in the Surjan area of Kathua’s Bani due to heavy rain.
“A total of five persons, including children and a woman, got buried under these houses,” said a police officer. “Five bodies have been recovered,” the officer added.
“The houses belonging to Mushtaq Ahmed and Abdul Qayum collapsed in Surjan Morha Aruad Block in Bani due to heavy rainfall. Five persons, including children, got buried under the debris of these houses. A rescue operation is underway to retrieve the bodies,” said Arjun Mangotra, Station House Officer Bani, who, along with the army, launched a massive operation to retrieve the bodies.
The deceased have been identified as three-year-old Arbaz, son of Mushtaq Ahmed, Sahabaz (14), son of Mushtaq, and his 45-year-old wife Zareen Begum, Nazir Bano (11), daughter, and Mohammad Asif (14), son of Abdul Qayum.
Senior Superintendent of Police Kathua, Shivdeep Singh Jamwal, also confirmed the incident and maintained that a massive rescue operation was underway for three other persons.
In three other separate incidents, a woman identified as Naseema Begum (50), wife of Mohammad Rafiq of Mandhota Tehsil Bani, died after coming under a landslide in the Bani area of the district. A class 7th student identified as Ajay Singh (13), son of Mohinder Singh of Sitti Tehsil, was buried under a landslide in Bani, while one person, namely Sham Lal (45), son of Tara Chand of Bhukllari, also got buried under a landslide, and later his body was retrieved. Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Bani, Satish Kumar, said that there are reports of flash floods and landslides in other areas, and rescue teams have been deputed.
He has announced compensation of Rs 50,000 for the deceased and Rs 25,000 for the injured.
Following the incidents, Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh, who is also a Member of Parliament from Udhampur Kathua constituency, Jammu, and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, and former Chief Minister Gulam Nabi Azad expressed grief over the incidents.
“Saddened to learn about the casualties caused due to incessant rain and house collapse in Bani tehsil of district Kathua. My sincere condolences to the families of the deceased. The Army has been called in to help in rescue operations and recover those buried under debris. I am in constant touch with DC Kathua Rakesh Minhas and SSP Kathua Shivdeep Singh Jamwal. All possible assistance is being provided,” Dr Singh tweeted on Wednesday.
The Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha, also expressed grief over the loss of lives in house collapse and landslides triggered by heavy rains in the Bani area of Kathua district. In a condolence message, the Lt. Governor said, “I am deeply saddened to learn about the tragic incident triggered by heavy rains in Kathua, in which a number of persons have lost their lives, and many others are feared trapped under the debris. Rescue and relief operations are currently underway. I have directed the district administration to provide all possible aid to the bereaved families, who have lost their near and dear ones, as well as medical assistance to the injured.”
Chairman Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed shock and grief over the loss of lives in the house collapse and landslides triggered by incessant rains in the Bani area of Kathua district. Expressing grief over the tragedy, Azad shared pain and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured and the safety of everyone in the situation.
Stressing the importance of remaining alert in the wake of flash floods and landslides, the former chief minister said he is concerned about the families living in far-flung areas of Kishtwar, Doda, Rajouri, Poonch, Reasi, and Kathua, where the situation is grim due to incessant rains, which have triggered landslides and disconnected poor people in terms of road blockades and communication disruption.
Meanwhile, rain lashed various parts of Jammu, damaging roads with all major rivers, including Tawi, Chenab, Basanter, Devak, and Ujh, flowing above the danger mark. Authorities advised people to stay away from low river banks and also ordered the closure of all schools in Kathua, Doda, Rajouri, and Kishtwar districts because of heavy rain causing swelling of water bodies.
Vaishno Devi Yatra from the new track and the passage of pilgrims on the Amarnath Yatra were also temporarily suspended.
Officials said that the new track to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine has been closed due to inclement weather conditions, while chopper service has also been suspended in Reasi district, while schools in Kishtwar, Doda, Rajouri, and upper reaches of Kathua have also been closed given the inclement weather.
They said that a fresh batch of 4,900 pilgrims, which left for the Amarnath shrine in Kashmir, has been halted at Yatri Niwas Chanderkote in Ramban due to shooting stones and landslides.
Meanwhile, Jammu-Pathankot road in Kathua was also closed in view of the flood-like situation, and a bridge on the Tarnah Nallah, Chadwal, has suffered damage due to heavy rain. The traffic was being diverted through the border road. Jammu Poonch road is also blocked at Tanda Akhnoor and closed for traffic movement. As a precautionary measure, Kishtwar-Sinthan Road remained closed for traffic. In Udhampur, the rainwater entered people’s houses.
Minister of State (PMO), Dr Jitendra Singh, who is also a Member of Parliament from Udhampur-Kathua constituency, expressed concern over the damage caused due to rain. “Concerned to learn about the damage caused to Chadwal bridge in Kathua due to flash floods, causing inconvenience to traffic. I immediately got in touch with DC Kathua, Rakesh Minhas, as well as the NHAI authorities. My office is constantly following up on the matter for expeditious repair and redressal,” the minister informed through his Twitter page.
Moreover, in the backdrop of heavy rainfall and rising water levels in rivers and streams, Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Ramesh Kumar, chaired a meeting to review flood management measures and preparedness across the districts of the division.
The Div Com assessed the damages caused due to the incessant rains and flooding in some areas and asked the Deputy Commissioners to immediately start assessment and share the same with his office.
Calling for swift restoration of essential services affected by the inclement weather, the Div Com directed the DCs to prioritize the repair of damaged roads, disrupted water supply, and power outages.
To enhance the emergency response system, the Divisional Commissioner asked
for establishing 24×7 multi-departmental control rooms and Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) in every district.
The DCs were instructed to notify helpline numbers and publicize the same to enable the general public to make distress calls and seek assistance when needed. In anticipation of landslides in hilly districts, the Div Com called upon the Border Roads Organization (BRO), Public Works Department (PWD), National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) department to keep their men and machinery on standby for road clearance operations when required.
Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) and Urban Local Bodies were instructed to keep the drainage systems clean in the city and major towns to prevent blockages and subsequent flooding.
The Jammu Power Distribution Corporation Limited (JPDCL) and Jal Shakti were put on alert and asked to swiftly restore water and power supply in case of any damage caused by flash floods. (KNO)