Death toll soars as Kashmir is pounded by monsoon

Two men watch a rain'swollen river in Jammu from a safe vantage point. Picture: AFP/Getty

Two men watch a rain'swollen river in Jammu from a safe vantage point. Picture: AFP/Getty

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LANDSLIDES and flash floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains have killed nearly 300 people across large areas of northern India and Pakistan, officials said yesterday.

Five days of incessant rains in Indian-controlled Kashmir have left at least 120 people dead in the region’s worst flooding in more than five decades, submerging hundreds of villages and triggering landslides, officials said. In neighbouring Pakistan, more than 160 people have died and thousands of homes have collapsed.

Rescuers in both countries were using helicopters and boats to try to reach tens of thousands of people stranded in their homes.

Rescue efforts in Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, were hampered by fast-moving floodwaters that submerged large parts of the city.

The rains had stopped yesterday, but officials said the spreading water from the overflowed Jhelum River was moving too fast to allow boats to reach many people stranded in Srinagar for much of the day.

In many parts of the city, the water was about 12ft deep, submerging entire houses.

“I’m in my 80s and I’ve never seen floods like this,” said Ghulam Nabi, speaking through a window from the third storey of his house in Srinagar’s upmarket Rajbagh section. “If this is how it is in my neighbourhood, I cannot imagine the devastation in other areas.”

Floodwaters entered the first floor of the state’s main maternity hospital, forcing more than 200 patients and staff to move to higher floors of the building.

Thousands of police officers and army rescue workers were fanned out across Jammu and Kashmir to help with relief and rescue efforts.

“The situation is extremely grim,” senior administrator Rohit Kansal said. “We are not able to reach many people because the water is moving so fast.”

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi surveyed the flood-hit areas from a helicopter yesterday and promised state federal help to deal with the devastation, which he described as a “national level disaster.”

Across Indian Kashmir, at least 450 villages have been flooded and 2,000 others have been affected by the floodwaters, officials said. All schools, colleges and offices have been shut, and electricity and drinking water supplies have been limited across the state.

In Pakistan, 103 people have died in the eastern province of Punjab from the collapse of houses, flooding and electrocution, said Ali Imam Syed, a senior official in the province’s rescue agency. He said more than 5,000 people had been rescued since Thursday, adding that three soldiers had gone missing during the rescue operation.

Ahmed Kamal, spokesman for Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, said 48 people had died in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir and 11 in the adjacent Gilgit Baltistan area since the flooding began.

“Army helicopters and navy boats are rescuing people and taking them to safety from submerged villages in Punjab and affected areas of Kashmir,” Mr Kamal said. He said that the flooding had hit 286 villages in Punjab, as several rivers breached their banks, and that the crisis was rapidly becoming a “national emergency.”

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