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Cloudbursts hit J&K, Ladakh; 7 dead, 17 missing in Kishtwar

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Separately, one person drowned and another was rescued in swollen Saktoi nallah in Rajouri district, the officials said.

Cloudbursts hit J&K, Ladakh; 7 dead, 17 missing in Kishtwar
A series of cloudbursts struck different parts in the twin Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh overnight, killing eight people and leaving 17 others missing, officials said on Wednesday. The cloudbursts hit Dacchan and Boujwa areas in Kishtwar; the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas; Bandipora in north Kashmir and Kargil in Ladakh, also damaging dozens of residential houses, several bridges and a mini-hydropower project, the officials said.
They said seven bodies, including that of two women, were recovered from the worst-hit Dacchin area of Kishtwar, where 17 people were also rescued in a joint operation by police, Army and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF). Separately, one person drowned and another was rescued in swollen Saktoi nallah in Rajouri district on Wednesday, the officials said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Centre is closely monitoring the situation in Kishtwar. All possible assistance is being provided to the affected areas, he said, wishing for everyone's safety and well-being.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and DGP Dilbagh Singh and took stock of the situation arising due to the cloudbursts. LG Sinha announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of those killed in the Kishtwar cloudburst. He said the grievously injured would get Rs 50,000 each and Rs 12,700 under the SDRF.
Kishtwar District Development Commissioner (DDC) Ashok Kumar Sharma said seven bodies were recovered from the remote Honzar village of Dacchan, while the search and rescue operation was on for 17 more missing. "Seventeen people were rescued and evacuated to hospital. Condition of three of them was stated to be serious," he said.
Police officials said the cloudburst happened around 4.30 am on Wednesday, triggering flash floods in the village which is located on the banks of the stream and a three-hour journey on foot from the last road connectivity. The village has no mobile connectivity. Twenty-one residential houses, 21 cowsheds and a bridge over the stream were damaged in the incident, they said.
"One of our SDRF teams from Kishtwar reached the affected village and two more teams from Doda and Udhampur districts joined the rescuers during the day," DGP-cum-Commandant General Home Guard, Civil Defence and SDRF, VK Singh said, adding the Air Force attempted to airlift one of the two teams waiting at the Jammu airport later in the day but the flight returned due to bad weather. The NDRF team from Ludhiana in Punjab is reaching Kishtwar and likely to join the operation on Thursday, Singh said.
Floods were also reported from Machail, Paddar and Bunjwah in the district. The Kishtwar DDC said two cloudbursts struck remote Lambard area overnight but there was no report of any loss of life.
"There is some damage to infrastructure including three bridges but exact details are awaited," Sharma said. He said 60 families were evacuated to safety from the Paddar area. Jammu-based Army PRO Lt Col Devender Anand said, "On a request from civil administration, two columns of the Army were launched to assist civil administration. The village was caught in a flash flood due to a cloudburst, which led to sudden rise in water level in the Malu and Nath Nala." The weather conditions over the village continue to remain adverse, thereby increasing the difficulty in rescue operations, he said, adding rescue and relief efforts are still underway.
A disaster management official said a cloudburst occurred near the Amarnath shrine in the afternoon but there was no loss of life. The incident led to shooting stones which caused damage to some tents, the officials said.
"Two SDRF teams are already at the holy cave and one additional SDRF team has been deputed from Ganderbal as a precautionary measure," the official said. The officials said cloudbursts also caused flash floods at Aloosa village in Bandipora district, but there was no report of any casualty.
"Two more bridges were damaged in Udhampur and Rajouri districts due to incessant rains. Two cloudbursts hit Sangra and Khangral areas of Kargil in Ladakh on Tuesday evening, causing damage to a mini hydropower project, nearly a dozen residential houses and standing crops. No loss of life was reported in the twin cloudbursts, officials said.
Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor Kargil Feroz Ahmad Khan said Sangra on Kargil-Zanskar road was the worst hit as the flash floods caused a lot of damage to the property, including the mini-hydropower project. "We have a lot of property damage in the cloudburst at Sangra. We have restored the electricity and water supply, while efforts are on to make the Kargil-Zanskar road traffic worthy by tomorrow evening," he told PTI.
A police official said nine residential houses and standing crops spread over several hectares suffered damage, while some cattle perished in flash floods in Panighar village. Khan said another cloudburst hit Khangral village on the Srinagar-Leh national highway, causing damage to some houses and the standing crop.
However, the 434-km highway is open for vehicular traffic, he said. Union minister Jitendra Singh and Lt Governor Sinha said they are monitoring the situation arising out of the natural calamity in Kishtwar district.
In a tweet, Singh, the MP from Udhampur constituency which also covers Kishtwar, said he spoke to the Kishtwar DM and Air Force authorities were contacted for lifting the injured as and when required. The NC, Congress, PDP, BJP, People's Conference, CPI(M) and Apni Party expressed grief over the loss of lives in the Kishtwar cloudburst and asked the LG administration to provide all possible help to the affected families.
With the prediction of more rains till July-end, authorities in Kishtwar have asked people living along water bodies and slide-prone areas to remain vigilant.
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