Three soldiers were missing after multiple avalanches tore through Kashmir’s Batalik sector on Thursday as the valley reeled under unprecedented rain and snow that swelled rivers and inundated vast areas over the past three days.
Two civilians are also missing after a vehicle they were travelling in skidded of the road and fell into a stream in Anantnag district. Five other passengers were rescued.
The administration declared floods in Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar where the Jhelum’s water level rose alarmingly and shut education institutions for three days, officials said.
The met office said the weather was likely to improve from Thursday as panic set in the valley which had seen death and devastation after torrential rain had triggered a deluge in 2014, the worst in many decades.
Kashmir experienced rare snowfall in April with vast areas blanketed in white due to the freak weather phenomemon.
An army spokesperson said the heavy snowfall triggered multiple avalanches, burying one post in the Batalik sector.
While two out of five trapped soldiers rescued were rescue, operations were on to trace the three others.
Specially trained and equipped avalanche rescue teams have been deployed for the operations in the area.
The administration also issued an avalanche warning for next the 24 hours in Kashmir valley and Kargil district.
Kashmir has seen devastating avalanches this year with fourteen soldiers swept away in Gurez, Bandipora and an army major in Ganderbal on January 25. Five more soldiers buried under snow on January 28 were pulled out alive in the Macchil sector of Kupwara. They, however, succumbed to their injuries two days later.
In Srinagar, officials declared flood after the Jhelum’s water level crossed 18 feet in Ram Munshibagh area in the evening.
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who held a review meeting, asked officials to set up a unified control room to monitor the situation. She also directed chalking out contingency plans for flood-prone areas and make available nearby buildings in case of emergency evacuations.
Kashmir divisional commissioner Baseer Ahmad Khan asked deputy commissioners to arrange buses and boats for evacuation of people from flood-prone areas to safer locations.
Police said they shifted several families trapped in waterlogged localities in north Kashmir’s Sopore where the rising water level of the Khursi Nallah inundated residential localities. They also shifted some families from Kupwara after rains and snowfall led to water-logging in the district.
Sonam Lotus, the director of the meteorological department, however, ruled out floods of the magnitude seen in 2014.
“There has been gradual decrease in rain/snow from this (Thursday) afternoon. There will be significant improvement in weather from Friday..., he said asking people to “keep cool, be vigilant, stay safe and don’t get panicked”.
Many residential areas of Srinagar were inundated and several busy roads were waterlogged across the capital, leading to traffic snarls. All exams of the Kashmir University and Islamic University of Science and Technology scheduled for Thursday were postponed.
Incessant rains also forced closure of the arterial Jammu-Srinagar National Highway as the rains triggered landslides and shooting stones at several places along the 300-km road.
The Jhelum river, which had breached its banks in 2014, originates in south Kashmir’s Sangam area of Anantnag district. Then its passes through capital Srinagar and Asham in Bandipora before crossing into Pakistan.
Police also established emergency helplines across the valley.
“Police have put its men on high alert to meet any possible challenge and eventuality and has established emergency control rooms in all the districts of the valley to provide help to the people in need,” a police spokesman said.
According to the met department, Srinagar received 98mm rainfall, Kokernag 106mm in Kokernag and tourist resort Pahalgam 87 mm since Wednesday morning.