Kashmir floods situation

12 Septembe 2014 0900 hrs IST)

Arjimand Hussain. Srinagar

– Close to 5 million people are affected by the floods in Jammu & Kashmir – 4.5 million in Kashmir valley and half a million in the Jammu region. 

– This happens to be the worst flood Kashmir has witnessed in over a century. Extreme weather conditions have lately aggravated in the region, compounding fears about drastic climate change in the Himalayas. 

– Some 3 million people and their homes are submerged mainly in the districts of Srinagar, Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam, Baramulla, Bandipora and Budgam

– The submerged and affected people include Indian and foreign visitors and Indian construction workers – whose number is estimated at half a million. Most of the foreign and Indian visitors were trapped in areas like Dal Lake, Bouleward Road, Rajbagh, Munawwrabad, Jawahar Nagar, Wazirbagh, Nigeen Lake, Pahalgam, Gulmarg, etc.

– Kashmir’s only road linkage with the outside world – the Srinagar-Jammu highway – remains closed since seven days and is expected to open in another 4-5 days. Road distance between Srinagar and Jammu is 300 kms. Closure of this vital surface communication link has resulted in acute shortage of essential commodities in Kashmir. There is no train connectivity between the Indian mainland and Kashmir as of now. The intra-Kashmir train service remains suspended since more than a week. The main Srinagar train station at Nowgam is submerged in 15-feet flood water. All supplies to Kashmir at present could only reach Srinagar by air. 

– Although Srinagar Airport (the region’s only civilian airport) is open, access to Srinagar city from the airport and the larger Kashmir region is still not possible. Some areas close to Srinagar airport, mainly in the highlands of Budgam district, remain accessible. Access to some areas in Baramulla and Pulwama district on the western side of the Jhelum was possible since 11 September.

– Mobile network, landline phones, Internet, banking services (Including ATMs), local TV and radio services remain suspended. State-owned BSNL mobile services have been restored on Wednesday in some limited areas of Srinagar. There is acute shortage of cash in Kashmir at the moment.

– In Srinagar areas like Hyderpora East Bypass, Parraypora, Rawalpora, Sanat Nagar, Rangreth are safe and are housing a large number of displaced people. On the eastern side of Jhelum, areas from Noorbagh upto Babademb in Old Srinagar are mostly free of water. These areas are organising rlief for the affected areas at a large scale. 

– Drinking water and power services are suspended since Sunday in Srinagar and other flood affected areas of Kugam, Anantnag, Pulwama, Baramulla, Budgam, etc. Power has been restored to some areas close to Srinagar airport.

– As of 11 September, 2014; according to police sources, 220 people have died in Srinagar city and bodies of women and children have been retrieved. The process of retrieving bodies in on. Over 200 people have been killed by the floods elsewhere.

– Medical services are the worst hit in the flood-hit Kashmir at the moment. The region’s only care hospital SKIMS, Soura has not been submerged. However it can at present only be accessed by tiny Ganderbal district and some areas of Bandipora, Sopore and Baramulla through a long and treacherous road along the Wullar Lake. It is also accessible to some areas of Srinagar on the east side of Jhelum – from Noorbagh to Babademb areas.

– Srinagar’s main emergency hospital SMHS Hospital, G B Panth Children’s Hospital, Dental Hospital, JVC Hospital are submerged in water. There are unconfirmed reports of at least 40 children dying due to submersion in G B Panth Hospital. Bone & Joint Hospital Barzulla was initially submerged but remains damaged and mostly inaccessible. Chest Diseases Hospital, Dalgate remains out of bounds. Private hospitals like Noora Hospital, Modern Hospital, Khyber Hospital, Ramzana Nursing Home, Tahira Khanam Nursing Home, City Hospital Tengpora, Sheikh ul Aaalam Hospital Karan Nagar and other private hospitals remain submerged in water.

– Privately-run Ahmad Hospital at Nowgam with 25-beds remains the only hospital accessible from Srinagar airport. This hospital is presently providing the whatever possible medical care it could. 

– There is acute shortage of life saving medicines in the flood affected areas, with medical shops having run out of stocks.

– There are unconfirmed reports of people having died of natural reasons and their bodies remaining un-burried due to flood water and lack of mobility in the flood affected areas.

– Bodies of individuals dying of natural reasons lie in the upper floors of some Srinagar hospitals. Some people have been buried temporarily on higher grounds outside their family graveyards.

– Hundreds of houses and buildings have collapsed in the last three days, especially in Old Srinagar – home to some 600,000 people. The exact casualties and damage remains unknown.

– There is severe shortage of essential commodities in Kashmir. Markets – wherever free of water – have run out of stocks. Significant amounts of rations are pouring into Srinagar and other affected areas from nearby accessible highlands of Budgam, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Pulwama etc. through local volunteer efforts. 

– Srinagar’s commercial hub Lal Chowk, administrative districts, including civil secretariat, government TV and radio stations, Police headquarters, High Court and almost all other important installations are submerged and immobilized.

– Due to submergence of critical go-downs in the commercial hubs of the flood affected areas, particularly in and around Srinagar, an acute shortage of supplies is likely to emerge in the next few days, which could potentially create large-scale public demonstrations and disturbances. 

– Hundreds of thousands of cattle have perished in the floods in Kashmir, including Srinagar’s suburbs. An estimated 400 cows have died and are floating on flood waters from the Army’s Tattoo Ground Milk Productin Farm at Chattabal.

– Flash floods in Jammu region has also resulted in disruption in road services in the district of Rajouri, Poonch and Reasi. 

About rescue and relief efforts:

– Most of the rescue and relief efforts are being carried out by local volunteers and Indian army and air force. Close to 100,000 people – mostly visitors to and construction workers in Kashmir – have been evacuated in the last three days by armed forces. Local volunteer efforts – carried with large trucks, improvised boats and floating objects – are estimated to have rescued about one million people. This author, his family and roughly 1000 people in the Hyderpora area were rescued by a volunteer truck on Sunday morning.

– MSF, Save the Children, Action Aid, ICRC and Handicap International are the only international aid agencies with long term presence in Kashmir. No INGO rescue or relief effort has been initiated in Kashmir so far. Some relief efforts have been initiated in Jammu region, particularly in Rajouri area.

– As of 11 September 2014, no inter-government or inter- aid agency coordination efforts have been initiated in Kashmir. A “Multi-stakeholder Coordination Meeting for J&K floods” was held on 10th Sep 2014 at YMCA Tourist Hostel, New Delhi, which was attended by these organisations: Handicap International, Cordaid, Tata group, EHA, First Response India, IFRC, Sphere India, OXFAM, UNFPA, Khushi Center, BPNI, Khushi centre, ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Aid), PNB Metlife, PRAGYA, CARE India, EFICOR, Tear fund, NDMA, Christian Aid, Helpage India, NCDHR, Caritas India, DCA, World Vision India, PHD Chamber of Commerce, ADRA, SEEDS, Cavo Today Fund, Action Aid, Habitat for Humanity, IGSSS, NNCDHR, DFID, WHH, TATA Group, Mahjoor Foundation (Represented by Nayeema Mehjoor), Islamic Relief India, World Vision India, Plan India, YMCA

At the meeting, members have suggested to add Rohingias Muslims (Myanmar displaced community), Migrant workers, Orphans, Homeless, Elderly and visually disabled as groups to be targeted first (Rohingyas are putting up in some areas in and around Jammu city)

It was suggested to capture Kashmiri Pandit migrants also in the damage and needs assessment

– According to the information available from the meeting, “dates for orientation on Joint Assessment tools and field visit will be planned once the accessibility issues are resolved.”

– Meanwhile, Kashmiri diaspora, private individual and non governmental actions have already mobilized and sent humanitarian aid to most affected areas of Kashmir. Further mobilisation of aid in kind and transportation to Srinagar airport is in process. The absence of a centralised coordinated system has the risk of this aid effort being duplicated or servicing non high priority areas. A coordination mechanism is being worked out by some Kashmiri Diaspora communities, which is to be operationalized in Srinagar soon. 

– There is no comprehensive situation report available from any government or non-government source as of now. A Sphere India-led situation report – an inter-aid agency co-ordination system in India – has been issued from New Delhi on 9th September. The report draws upon secondary government and army information sources. An updated, ground- informed and comprehensive situation report is awaited.

– No organised government rescue and relief has been initiated as of now due to complete break-down of government administrative system

– Hundreds of relief camps have been established in and around Srinagar mostly run by local volunteer efforts. Community kitchens and shelters have been organised in hundreds of villages and habitations in and outside Srinagar. 

– Critical aid requirements include: boats, drinking water, medicines, hygiene kits, food, warm clothes, blankets, baby food, milk, children’s hygiene kits.