Azad puts Army, Air Force on alert
8 February 2008
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today convened an emergency meeting of senior civil, Army, para-military and police officers to put in place a rescue and relief grid for worst affected areas in Doda and Kishtwar districts where up to 15 ft snow has accumulated at some places, triggering fears of avalanches and possibilities of loss to life and property. The two districts along with areas adjoining of Ramban have been experiencing record snowfall for past few days. Areas like Kishtwar town that would normally receive few inches of snow have recorded the history’s heaviest snowfall at 2.5 ft. Mr Azad asked the senior officers of Army, para-military and police to alert their nearest formations in snow bound areas especially in upper reaches to collect information and move to the affected places for relief and rescue operation wherever needed. He said telecommunication systems of these forces could be best utilized for collection of information as normal communication links like landline and cell phones have stopped working in these areas. He asked the Air Force to mobilize helicopter sorties in different directions in the affected districts as soon as weather opens up to instill confidence among the people and reach out to them in their hour of need. The Chief Minister asked the Air Force authorities to identify places for helicopter landing so that medicines and other necessary items could be reached to any destination if needed. He also asked the divisional administration to keep ready woolens and blankets that could be airlifted if required. He said since there was no let up in snowfall in these areas and communication system had broken down the actual situation could not be ascertained. However, he said, if the weather showed any improvement tomorrow, the Air Force helicopters would be pressed into service to survey the worst affected areas. He said on the basis of information collected by the survey, rescue and relief teams would be sent by air to the places where the need was felt. He said all Deputy Commissioners have been asked to arrange food for stranded passengers in their respective districts. Mr Azad said that the districts of Doda and Kishtwar have had heaviest snowfall in the history this time ranging from 6 ft to 15 ft. He said the quantum of snow and the fact that it was falling uninterrupted was causing concern. He said for last six days, the two districts were cut off with road connectivity and communication system was badly disturbed. He said since no information was coming from the worst affected areas he was keeping his fingers crossed and only hoped that no disaster takes place. He said 40-50 per cent villages in the two districts had 10 ft to 15 ft snow, adding that Army and Air Force had been put on alert to meet with any eventuality. Today’s meeting, the fourth convened by the Chief Minister in three days, to respond to the emerging situation following incessant and heavy snowfall, was attended among others by Minister of State for Social Welfare, G. M. Saroori and MLA, Abdul Majid Wani, who represent two constituencies falling in the affected areas, Chief Secretary, B. R. Kundal, Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Anil Goswami, Inspector General of Police, CID, K. Rajendra, Air Commodore, A. K. Prasad, Major General, Sheonan Singh, IG, Border Security Force, Jammu, A. K. Surrolia, Additional DIG, CRPF, V. K. Mathur and Commander 35, BRTF, Col. P. P. Chandel. The Indian Air Force will start airlifting stranded passengers between Jammu and Srinagar from tomorrow, an official release said. 'The air bridging would be carried out by the Air Force by heavy and medium lift transport aircrafts', it said. The IAF has responded to a call to provide succour to stranded passengers due to closure of highway by the State Government. The Government has also requested the Air Force to stand by for relief operations in Doda, Bhadarwah and Kishtwar following incessant snowfall and rains. The IAF helicopters have been kept ready at Jammu and Udhampur for reconnaissance and relief operations as required by the State Government, the release said. Meanwhile, the Chief Secretary, B. R. Kundal has said that the Government would use all resources to save people in the event of any emergency. He said rescue and relief grid had been put in place, adding that the administration stood by the affected people in their hour of need. The State Police has set up a special control room in Jammu for round the clock monitoring of the situation in the affected areas. The Government today released Rs. 7 crore to meet the exigencies created by heavy snowfall in the Valley and parts of Jammu to restore damaged public service infrastructure. The decision was taken at a meeting of State level Disaster Management Committee (DMC) chaired by Chief Secretary B. R. Kundal here today. Mr Kundal emphasized the need of attending problems of people caused by heavy snowfall on war footing. 'Response of administration and field functionaries to such eventualities should be quick and effective', he said. He stressed for monitoring the restoration of public services and supply of essentials by the divisional heads personally. 'There would be no bottleneck on account of allotment of funds for restoring the damaged services and providing immediate relief to affected, people but promptness and personal dynamism at the level of field functionaries was a must to deliver goods on the ground and achieve the results', he added.