Water levels in North Kashmir are rising which is a matter of concern, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said while hoping that it would not be as bad as in the rest of the Valley.
The chief minister said the water levels are "receding" in central Kashmir but they are still above the danger mark and the government was waiting for it to go below the danger mark to "plug the breaches" on the banks of river Jhelum.
"Water levels are rising in some parts of north Kashmir. That is a matter of concern. We are hoping that north Kashmir will not be as badly affected as the rest," Abdullah told PTI in an interview.
14 children found dead at hospital in Srinagar
He said that as per the figures available with the state government so far, 129 people had lost lives in Jammu region whereas 30-35 people were found dead in Kashmir Valley.
On the number of people rescued by various agencies so far, he said the Army and NDRF know the exact figures but he was aware of 50,000 people having been rescued by the Army and 20,000-30000 by NDRF.
Asked about the extent of loss of lives in the flood, he said "I am hoping and praying that the loss of life will not be as severe as we expect it. Because looking at the situation, the death toll is still remarkably low. I am hoping and praying that it will not be as bad some have been fearing."
He said that "within the constraints of (the number of) helicopters, we are doing the best job possible," when asked if the government was able to rescue enough people in the situation.
On the damage caused to the infrastructure by the floods, Abdullah said officials have already been tasked to assess the damage so that repair and reconstruction activities can be initiated.
"Right now, the focus still remains on rescue operations as 1.5 lakh people are still marooned. Our primary focus is on provision of relief like rations, medicines and supplies they require," he said.
Abdullah identified rice, water, medicines as the items required more than anything else.
To a query on incidents of stone-pelting and the possibility of involvement of separatists in them, the chief minister said "those people are not from Srinagar. They have been coming in from South and North Kashmir and they have been indulging in thefts and law and order situations"
On reports about incidents of thefts in marooned houses, he said "it is true".
Abdullah said such incidents have taken place in other countries also as "even in London, when riots took place, there was looting. I wish Jammu and Kashmir had set a better example. I have asked the police to increase their presence." On the possibility of spread of diseases and epidemic after the flood water recedes, he said Kashmir has a history that lives are not lost in floods but in the aftermath of floods.
"Our focus is on provision of medicines and water- purifying medicines like chlorine and lakhs of chlorine tablets have been distributed. We have asked municipalities to activate the sanitation system. Our primary concern is rescue and provision of food, prevention of diseases and epidemics is our priority," he said.
The chief minister noted that a major concern of the people affected by the floods is that they fear that their services would be disconnected for non-payment of bills and absence of recharge for prepaid connections.
"I have spoken to the Union telecom minister requesting that the due date of post-paid bills be deferred by 15 days. For prepaid connections, five days extra may be granted for making calls even if there is zero balance," he said.
Abdullah said the government is also paying attention to mobile banking so that people can retrieve their money for buying essentials.
Asked about the Centre's decision to refuse international aid for relief operations in the state, he said "we should accept help from anywhere in terms of expertise, if available. We are not begging. "
Flood triggered by heavy rain in Jammu and Kashmir have claimed around 200 lives so far and left thousands homeless. It has also caused extensive damage to road, rail and telecommunication infrastructure in the state.
J-K ministers urge PM to declare national calamity
A high-level ministerial team from J-K called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and requested him to declare the flash floods in the state as "national calamity" and announce a "liberal and pragmatic" financial and special rehabilitation package to restore normalcy at the earliest.
The delegation, led by state's finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather, submitted a memorandum to Modi putting forth several demands to help the state government which was grappling with the worst deluge in over 100 years.
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"The Prime Minister was very positive and assured us complete support to overcome the crisis," senior minister Ali Mohammed Sagar, who was a part of the delegation, told reporters.
While there are no guidelines on declaring any disaster as national calamity, the Centre decides this on case to case basis taking into account intensity and magnitude of the calamity, level of relief assistance, capacity of the state government to tackle the problem, the alternatives and the flexibility available within the plan to provide succour and relief.
The Uttarakhand tragedy in 2013 was declared as "calamity of severe nature" and the Centre had given around Rs 12,000 crore assistance to the state.
Modi, during his visit to the state last Sunday, had announced an immediate package of Rs 1000 crore.