A few cuts could have saved Srinagar | india | Hindustan Times
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A few cuts could have saved Srinagar

The damage to Srinagar because of flooding could have been less severe if state authorities had opened up crucial embankments in uninhabited areas in southern Kashmir, a reconstruction of events and accounts from rescuers seem to suggest.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2014 00:03 IST
Zia Haq

The damage to Srinagar because of flooding could have been less severe if state authorities had opened up crucial embankments in uninhabited areas in southern Kashmir, a reconstruction of events and accounts from rescuers seem to suggest.

The Jhelum flows through Srinagar, which is situated in a bowl-shaped Valley, from South Kashmir before flowing north into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. When torrential rains began on September 3, its surging waters began racing towards Srinagar from southern Kashmir stations like Anantnag and Avantipur that are at a considerably greater altitude than the rest of the Valley.

The state government could have moved flood control personnel and machinery to open the Pampore bund, a dyke about 30 km south of Srinagar, a senior official coordinating rescuing efforts said. Opening up segments of this embankment in areas devoid of human population would have safely drained off substantial quantities of water. This, in turn, would have had an effect downstream and Srinagar wouldn’t have been as badly submerged as it is now, said the official.

However, another official, requesting anonymity, said such options were never considered because state authorities widely believed that the rain would subside. HT could not independently verify with the Jammu and Kashmir government whether such a measure was an option, or even feasible.

The local office of the Indian Meteorological Department had forecast “heavy to extremely heavy rainfall” in the first week of September but it is not clear how state authorities handled that information.

Survivors rescued by the army said the state did sound a red alert as rainfall became heavier on September 6. The panicky authorities used mosques to warn people.

“The government did not tell us anything except that there is an alert,” said Rahil Altaf, a resident of Jawahar Nagar. Sajad Qazi, a professor of medicine at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, added that the government reacted slowly and gave people no specific directions. On the morning of September 8, a Sunday, Srinagar was sinking.