Rescue teams struggled on Thursday to reach thousands of people still marooned in Kashmir a week after the state’s worst flooding in 60 years as anger mounted over what many described as the collapse of the civil administration in Srinagar.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) deployed rescue boats in Rajbagh, one of the worst-affected areas in downtown Srinagar, while residents used makeshift rafts to evacuate people from other submerged areas in the state where about 400,000 people remain stranded after the devastating floods.
The ferocity of the deluge that has left more than 200 people dead appeared to have taken the state administration by surprise.
No local authorities, civil or police, were on the ground in Srinagar as people jostled for boats and those rescued from flooded homes in a dehydrated condition desperately looked for transport, medicines, food and shelter.
"Our ministers were busy evacuating their own people and VIPs in the first few days of the floods and disappeared thereafter. Have you seen Jammu and Kashmir politicians and policemen anywhere?” said Mohammad Hassan Wani, a local resident helping with relief after rescue operations.
“All top officials of the administration trapped in floods were airlifted, so were international tourists from Dal Lake. They had their own priority list."
People complained the Omar Abdullah government had failed to warn them about the floods and was not equipped to deal with the natural disaster.
"We used to remove the tin roofs of our house to wave at helicopters to rescue us but they were only airlifting from locations briefed by the state administration," said Mansoor Ahmed, who was rescued on Thursday from the third floor of his Rajbagh house with his wife and 80-year-old mother.
Srinagar residents also complained the government was not doing anything to pump out standing water as fears of disease loomed large.
"We at Rajbagh were at the epicentre of the floods. A government jeep could have covered the area in half an hour if it gave door-to-door warning. The water will not go out of its own. And it is not rocket science for the state engineering department to figure out how to pump it out," said Yusuf Butt.
The death of a seven-year-old after drinking contaminated water raised alarm bells in the area. "We have been given chlorine tablets, saying one is enough for 150 litres of water. Where is 150 litres of water to drink? We are buying drinking water bottles. There is no water tanker here," said Javed, a driver.
Officials said water supplies had been partially restored in the Valley and efforts were on to re-establish communication links that were snapped after the floods.
The government has moved thousands of people to makeshift shelters where they are also being provided with food and other basic amenities. The army has deployed about 30,000 troops for rescue and relief operations and soldiers distributed 224,000 litres of water and food to survivors.
In a gesture of solidarity, staff at the prime minister's office gave up one day's salary for flood relief.
Many people praised the army on social media for its efforts but others vented their anger at delays in getting help to survivors.
Basharat Peer, a journalist and author of a book on the Kashmir conflict, who is working as a volunteer in Srinagar, said the response to the disaster had been woeful.
"It is clear case of mismanagement. Why are the basic supplies still not made available?" Peer asked.
"There are thousands of people searching for their families They have no idea whether they are alive or dead. We have no clean drinking water, no medicines and food to feed the children."
(With agency inputs)