Emergency workers pulled out 16 bodies, including that of an infant, from a landslide site in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district, as the Jhelum fell below the danger mark on Tuesday, bringing relief to panic-stricken people in the state that was struck by devastating floods last year.
According to officials, the water level at Sangam and Ram Munshi Bagh - two monitoring sites - is below the danger mark and can go down further if there is no rain on Tuesday.
"Water levels at Sangam was 16 feet and at Ram Munshi Bagh is 17.3 around 1pm. If the water level at Sangam comes further down to 12 ft, hopefully we will have no floods even if it rains for two more days,'' said minister for public works Altaf Bhukari.
The government, however, is not ready to lower its guard.
"We have increased vigil along the river banks and our local administration is all geared up. Even if there is a flood situation we should be able to evacuate 95% of the population on foot. The requirement for boats should be less,'' Bhukari added.
According to him, meteorological department has not predicted a very strong weather system in the coming days.
"They are saying only 25 mm rain is expected but we still have to be vigilant,'' he added.
The Met department has said weather will improve and there will be less rainfall in the next 24 to 48 hours.
"Another weather system is expected on April 1 but that is also not going to be strong," said Sonam Lotus, director of the meteorological department, in Srinagar.
Incessant rains on Saturday and Sunday caused Jhelum to swell creating panic in Srinagar, which was one of the worst hit in September's devastating floods.
After the state government declared floods, people started moving out of the areas which were affected by the last inundation.
Except the death of 16 members of three families in a landslide on Monday in Laden village of Budgam district, no injuries or casualties have been reported in any other part of the valley.
"All bodies have been retrieved, no one is missing," said a police spokesperson.
Landslide had hit Hajjam Mohalla of Laden around 3.30am on Monday burying two houses to the ground. There were three families in the houses comprising 8 men, 7 women and an infant who was less than a month old.
Police had recovered 6 bodies late on Monday evening and continued search for the missing people through out the night.
According to local police officials, rescue operations were difficult as the machines could not be moved to the spot.
"The area had turned into a swamp, so rescue and search operations had to be undertaken manually," said a police officer.
A woman patient being rescued from a flood hit Hamdania Colony in Srinagar. (PTI Photo)
However, in some respite for the state, there was no rainfall through Monday night. The government, however, has not revoked the advisory to people as more rain is expected from Tuesday evening.
"We have advised people from areas like Lasjan, Natipora, Mahjoor Nagar to move to safer places and areas around the rivers and streams. The advisory continues," said Bhukari.
According to him, boats, sandbags and a 24-hour vigil on bunds have been made available all across the valley.
Massive dewatering operations have been launched by state irrigation and fire department authorities in Srinagar.
"The embankments made after last year's floods are safe, except for a few areas where water seeped into residential areas. There is water logging and we are trying to pump it out," said Bhukari.
Evacuations are underway from the low lying areas as further downpours have been predicted in the region.
Three joint control rooms in south, north and central Kashmir were set up and relief camps provided with adequate ration, water, fuel, blankets and other necessary items.
Panic in Srinagar
Srinagar's city centre Lal Chowk had panic-stricken shopkeepers, who suffered huge losses last September, emptying their stocks from their shops.
"We do not want to end up in the same way as last time. We have just renovated our shop and bought fresh stock," said one shopkeeper dealing in women's clothing.
"The material is so fragile that even a small volume of water can spoil everything,'' he added.
Workers busy doing repair works at another shop nearby are also keeping the fingers crossed.
"We had just finished the final coat of paint. It is sad what is happening,'' said Abdul Rahman.
Although water did not seep into the area, which is on the bank of Jhelum, the rainfall had water-logged many parts in Lal Chowk leading to apprehension of a repeat of September catastrophe.
Over 300 people lost their lives and the valley suffered losses of thousands of crores in the floods last year.
The Centre had sent 8 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, comprising around 400 personnel, along with rescue boats and water pumps to take part in relief operations.
It had also granted Rs 200 crore as immediate relief and assured its complete support to the state to handle the crisis.
(With inputs from agencies)