Army deploys 17,000 troops to rescue people

Army deploys 17,000 troops to rescue people

 The Army has launched Operation Megh Rahat, deploying close to 17,000 troops, to rescue people marooned  across Jammu and Kashmir and provide relief to those taken to safety in the last 72 hours.

The Army’s winter stocks stored at Leh are being moved to Srinagar — the worst affected area — using the Leh-Kargil road while Army engineers are repairing the Jammu-Srinagar highway that has been washed away by the floods. It would take another week to restore the road link between the two cities. “The Army will not move back to the barracks till the last man is brought to safety,” said Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag.

“As on Monday, 215 Army columns — each comprising 70-80 men — along with 65 medical teams and 15 engineering task force are in action in the flood ravaged state,” said Maj Gen Shokin Chauhan, Additional Director General (Public Information) at the Army headquarters. Unlike the Uttarakhand deluge where many were rescued from rooftops, helicopters could not pick up the victims stranded on buildings in the valley as most of the houses have slanting roofs to tackle the snowfall. The Army is using 130 boats to reach out to most of the flood-affected colonies like Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Shivpura, Pantha and Tent Pura.

 The Army and the National Disaster Response Force are receiving support from the Indian Air Force, which has so far made 186 sorties using 45 aircraft to airlift more than 1,700 personnel and 315 tonnes of relief material. Transport aircraft An-32, IL-76 and C-17 have been pressed into operation.

Transport aircraft are operating from Bhatinda, Chandigarh, Srinagar, Jammu, Awantipur and Delhi whereas helicopters are flying from Srinagar, Awantipur, Udhampur, Pathankot and Sarsawa.  As the communication system has collapsed, the Army has airlifted its communication equipment to restore the links. BSNL loads are also being airlifted from Bangalore and Jammu. Chauhan said the Army provided satellite communication to the chief minister, chief secretary and the director general of police as power and telecommunication lines have been disrupted.

“Telephone exchanges of all operators are under water. Not just BSNL, but most private operators have had to shut operations,” said Union Minister for Communication and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The Navy, too, joined the operation by deploying a team of Naval Marine Commandos that rescued around 200 people at Haigaon on Srinagar-Sopore highway. Rescue efforts are now continuing near Pantha Chowk in Srinagar, said a Navy official.

In Srinagar town, the Badami Bag cantonment and the Army transit camp are under several feet of water. When Gen Suhag flew over Srinagar on Monday, he could only see the roof of the army cantonment. As many as 385 families and 4,200 troops were rescued from the cantonment.

Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen P R Kumar briefed Defence Secretary R K Mathur, who is coordinating with the Home Ministry and the state government. Food, drinking water, milk and rations are being flown to the valley on a daily basis.

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