The army on Thursday said it was bracing up for floods from September 4 only because of severe weather warnings and claimed there would have been less destruction if the government warnings were issued more forcefully and Kandizaal embankment opened.
“We had a joint monitoring team at Sangam (the water gauge in south Kashmir in the first week of September). If the government had forcefully warned people through radio and television, the floods would not have inflicted this magnitude of damage,” said general officer commanding, sub-area, Lt General Ajay Das in Srinagar in a press conference.
He said there were warnings issued by the state administration but “people showed no faith in the government”.
He said the army started rescue operation with only four boats on September 6-7, but the boat number increased to 22. “We directed army men not to carry weapons and focus only on rescue operation,” he said.
The army GOC revealed that the government failed to take precautionary measures. “The authorities did not open the Kandizaal embankment upstream. There was a proposal to divert the river upstream and we sent engineers too but it was already too late,” he added.
He said the army had no objection to opening of the Kandizaal embankment. “We had no problem with it,” said Lt General Das.
The army officer boasted of the fact that all army personnel, arms and ammunitions were saved from the floods, which submerged even the Badamibagh cantonment area up to 15 feet.
“We have been working round the clock. Though it was confusing times, we rescued whoever we sighted in the floods,” he said, adding, “There was no selective picking, which is impossible in flood-like situation.”
The army said it readied its base hospital by discharging 100 personnel ahead of floods to meet the eventuality. “Local youth acted as guides for us. We have been rescuing people since September 4,” he said.
The army said the rescue operation followed the protocol where women, children, old and patients were given first preferences.
"We would ask healthy youth to stay back in the inundated houses but brought out the needy. We ensured we reach the farthest point and start rescuing people on the way,” he added.
Around 61,000 civilians were rescued by the army in its operation during the floods.