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Over 6-lakh still stranded in flood-ravaged Kashmir, death toll crosses 200 mark

SRINAGAR: About 6-lakh people were still stranded and desperate for help on Tuesday in flood-ravaged Kashmir Valley where heavy rains have eased to help scale up the massive multi-agency rescue and relief efforts in which nearly 43,000 people have so far been safely evacuated.

As the miseries faced by people - some of them perched on rooftops - in the worst floods to hit Jammu and Kashmir in six decades unfolded, the death toll in the floods, landslides and house collapses triggered by torrential monsoon rains since Tuesday last was stated to be around 200.

Authorities were also trying to fix the telecommunication links snapped since Sunday afternoon on a war footing and hope to restore it in a phased manner.

“The big problem that is hampering rescue activities in the Valley is that telecom links have become dysfunctional... The Department of Telecommunications (DOT) is trying its best to restore the links quickly,” an official said.

Help is coming from all over the nation to Kashmir. Gujarat government said it arranged 50,000 food packets while the Bihar government is providing 25,000 packets of dry food for flood affected people in Jammu and Kashmir.

National carrier Air India also pitched in declaring free passage for tourists stranded in Srinagar. Officials said shortage of boats was also affecting rescue operations.

A total of 61 IAF choppers and transport aircraft undertook 354 sorties non-stop overnight to carry men and relief material to submerged parts of the Valley where about one lakh troops were engaged in the rescue operations, Defence Spokesman Col SD Goswami told PTI in Jammu.

Officials said that an estimated four lakh people were believed to be still stranded in the aftermath of the floods.

GoC 15 Corps Lt Gen Subrata Saha said the weather condition is improving and the water level has receded in Srinagar and other towns in South Kashmir.

“The weather has cleared and the intensity of the helicopter operations has picked up. In Srinagar, the water level has receded by 1.5 to 3 feet at some places but we are noticing an increase in water level on the northern side,” he said.

“A massive rescue and relief operations by the Indian Armed Forces, IAS and NDRF is on in Jammu and Kashmir with more helicopters and rescue materials including boats pressed into service today,” the Defence Spokesman said.

“Armed Forces and NDRF so far rescued 42,587 persons in different regions of J&K,” he said, adding that about one lakh troops were involved in the operations. Though 110 Army boats and 148 NDRFs inflatable boats were pressed into service, there were complaints of shortage of boats. More boats were also being airlifted from Delhi.

BSNL has launched an operation on a war-footing with Army and IAF to restore mobile services through satellite network and the telecom network is expected to be partially restored on Tuesday, officials said.

Road connectivity to the flood-hit Kashmir Valley has been restored from the Leh region following concerted efforts of Indian Army Engineers and the Border Roads Organisation.

Goswami said that rescue teams focused on the inundated city of Srinagar and the south Kashmir belt. He said that 7,200 blankets and 210 tents have been distributed among flood -affected people along with 42,000 litres of water, 600kg of biscuit, 7 tonnes of baby food and 1,000 food packets.