Floods in Kashmir after rivers cross danger mark, schools closed
A flood alert has been sounded in south and central Kashmir, with water levels in the Jhelum river rising after heavy rains over the last two days.
Authorities have warned of fresh rainfall and set up a round-the-clock monitoring system in various parts of the state. Water level rose above the danger mark at Sangam in South Kashmir as well as Ram Munshi Bagh in Srinagar on Saturday morning.
Officials said the Jhelum rose above the critical 21-feet mark at Sangam in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district owing to heavy rainfall. “Due to continuous rains over the past two days, the gauge at Sangam has crossed the flood declaration of 21 feet and was flowing at 21.33 feet at 6 pm,” an official at the irrigation and flood control department said.
The water level of the Jhelum at Ram Munshi Bagh stood at 13.34 feet at 6 pm, just 4.5 feet below the flood-declaration point. He said people living along the river bank have been advised to remain vigilant.
A high-level meeting was chaired in Srinagar to monitor the situation. Officials said people living in low-lying areas have been asked to be prepared for evacuation in case of an emergency. Schools across the Valley have been closed as a precautionary measure. A senior police officer said people needn’t panic as the situation was being closely watched.
Kashmir experienced heavy rainfall over the past couple of days. The downpour was particularly intense in Srinagar on Friday.
A Met official said Kokernag in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district received the highest rainfall at 63.4 mm until 8.30 am while neighbouring Qazigund received 58.6 mm of rainfall. Srinagar had recorded just 12.6 mm of rainfall until 8.30 am, but the intensity increased after that, he added.
Water levels in streams and rivers across the Valley have been increasing sharply since morning, going up by a foot with each hour since 9 am. Residents of the Valley have begun fearing a re-run of the 2014 floods, which caused widespread devastation and left over 300 dead.
But Met officials have predicted an improvement in weather for two days, following which a fresh cycle will give rise to more rainfall in the Valley.
Amarnath Yatra suspended
The ongoing Amarnath Yatra from Jammu was suspended due to weather concerns on Saturday, with no fresh batch of pilgrims being allowed to trek towards the Himalayan cave shrine of Lord Shiva through either the Pahalgam or Baltal routes.
Only 2,294 pilgrims have managed to perform the darshan since the beginning of the yatra on Thursday, even as 10,000 remain stranded at the twin base camps in Srinagar.
Officials said incessant rainfall has made both the yatra tracks slippery, and the Baltal route was even damaged in several places. The Jammu-Srinagar national highway also witnessed multiple landslides during this period.
Meanwhile, a batch of 2,032 pilgrims that left for the shrine through the Pahalgam route on Friday morning remained stuck at Udhampur – located about 65 km from Jammu – for an extended period of time. They set off on their onward journey only on Saturday morning, after spending the night at Udhampur.
However, the rainfall has stopped for now, and even the meteorological department has predicted dry weather for the next two days.
Meanwhile, around 5,000 pilgrims are camping in Jammu. While 1,500 are lodged at the Bhagwati Nagar base camp, the rest are staying in community halls. The Jammu district administration has made arrangements for their lodging and boarding here.
Jammu additional deputy commissioner Arun Manhas confirmed that the pilgrimage has been halted for now. “Due to inclement weather and bad condition of the Baltal and Pahalgam routes, the Amarnath yatra has been suspended,” he said.
When asked if it was possible for the yatra to resume in the later hours, Manhas said: “It can happen on Sunday morning, provided the weather improves.”
The police officer said arrangements have been made for more pilgrims to stay in Jammu, if the need arises. “In case of additional rush, pilgrims will be accommodated in the nearby Asaram Bapu ashram – in addition to the 14 community halls that have already been booked,” he added.
(Inputs from agencies)