Death toll rises to 39 as heavy rains continue in Kashmir
WATCH: Army rescues people stranded by heavy floods in Kashmir
SRINAGAR, India – The death toll from severe flooding in Indian-controlled Kashmir rose to at least 39 on Friday, as overwhelmed local authorities requested help from federal rescue officials. Rain continued to fall in much of the Himalayan region, forcing thousands to abandon their homes.
Officials said the deaths from flooding and landslides caused by four days of rain included five bodies recovered after a bus carrying more than 50 members of a wedding party was swept away in a stream Thursday. Four passengers managed to swim to safety and rescuers are searching for the others.
The heavy rains eased Friday, but light rain was expected to continue until Saturday evening, meteorologists said.
Shantmanu, a government official who uses only one name, said 15 people were buried under a house that collapsed in Poonch region on Friday. Rescuers have recovered five bodies so far, he said.
Three other people, including a paramilitary soldier, were washed away when a bridge collapsed in a separate incident.
The region has been hit by its worst monsoon flooding in more than two decades. Power and telephone links have been cut in many areas and supplies of clean drinking water have been hit, officials said.
Soldiers and rescue workers used boats to move thousands of people to higher ground. Public address systems in mosques warned people in the worst-hit neighbourhoods to move to safety.
Officials said at least 100 villages across the Kashmir valley were flooded by overflowing streams and rivers, including the Jhelum river, which was up to 2 metres (7 feet) above its danger level.
Parts of the main city of Srinagar were also flooded.
At least 300 rescuers with boats and sophisticated search equipment from the National Disaster Response Force arrived in the region, according to Rohit Kansal, a civilian official.
The flooding inundated homes, cut off neighbourhoods, and damaged bridges across the state. Officials said southern areas of Kashmir suffered massive flooding and most of the federal rescuers were sent to that area to help rescue efforts.
The state government said it was setting up rescue shelters and had budgeted 200 million rupees ($3.3 million) for relief and rescue efforts.
Kashmir’s traditional wedding season has also been disrupted by the flooding. The main English newspaper, Greater Kashmir, published cancellation notices for more than six dozen marriage ceremonies.
Landslides and floods are common in India during the monsoon season, which runs from June through September. More than 100 people died recently when a massive landslide hit a village near Pune, a city in western India.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. They have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since winning independence from Britain in 1947.
© th, 2014