Monday, 8 September 2014

Srinagar transforms into a giant lake

SRINAGAR: Much of Srinagar, a sprawling city of over a million people, has over the last few days looked the muddied extension of its centre piece - the Dal Lake. Gushing flood waters from the river Jehlum have inundated even the city's posh areas, marooning many of those who should have out overseeing relief operations.

Areas like Indira Nagar, Gogji Bagh, Shivpora, Jawahar Nagar, where top government officials live and are considered among the toniest areas, are under water at least 12 feet water. Residents there were forced to take refuge on the top floors or the rooftops of their houses, some of which have been reported to have even collapsed.

A journalist's desperate Facebook post said 10 employees of the Jammu & Kashmir high court were trapped inside a guest house in upscale Raj Bagh. "Trapped on the fourth floor since last night, they are hungry and frightened.''

Another journalist described images from Kashmir as "apocalyptic", while underlining: "Not sure if we realise the full scale of devastation."

READ ALSO: J&K flood toll over 150, PM lines up Rs 1,000 crore to fight 'national crisis'

Television visuals showed people wading through gushing waters and perched on the top of a flyover in central Srinagar's Jahangir Chowk area. It appeared the Jehlum had taken several new courses in the city. The road to the main airport in Srinagar was reported to be under water as well, preventing people from entering the city.

Reports from rural Kashmir are sketchy with total breakdown of communications. The real extent of the damage would be clear when officials and the media get access to the countryside which is feared to be hit as much as Srinagar.

Even many journalists were reported to be stranded at the centrally located Press Enclave, where the water levels were said to have gone up to the level of second floors. A Facebook alert suggested 10 journalists were crying for help. None of this could be independently verified with total breakdown of telephone services.

Jammu-based Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin confirmed: "Latest inputs: Journalists stuck in Press Colony, waiting for rescue,'' she posted on a social networking site. The area house offices of major media house, including The Kashmir Times.

People stranded at a waterlogged Hari Singh High Street in Srinagar. (PTI Photo)

Dozens of tourists were among those desperately seeking help. Around 40 of them were said to have been trapped inside a hotel at Lal Mandi. "Rajinder Sharma along with his family, residents of Kishtwar, trapped in flood-hit area of Tulsi Bagh near Ramzan Hotel. They are still in Hotel Chinese Blossom... to save their lives please share this,'' a journalist posted on Facebook.

Like throughout the terrible years of violence in Kashmir, Kashmiris are showing great resilience. "Srinagar is in panic. I see people scared, yet concerned. Running for safety, yet offering help to others. Kashmir will live,'' wrote rights activist Khurram Parvez on Facebook.

In the same spirit of self-help, a factory owner offered her premises for the flood-hit people. "Our factory in Zakura, Srinagar Industrial available to anyone seeking accommodation... can accommodate 50-60 people. Food will also be made available,'' she wrote on Facebook.

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