Srinagar: The steady rise of the water levels of the Jhelum river, which dissects the Srinagar into two parts, sent residents of the panicked city rushing to its embankments fearing a repeat of last year’s floods in September that left most of the Kashmir valley under water.

The state government finally declared a flood in Srinagar when the Jhelum’s water level reached 18.00 ft at around 3 am on Monday. A senior official said water level of river Jhelum at 6 am at Sangam (South Kashmir) and Ram Munshi Bagh (Srinagar city) has touched 22.4 feet and 18.8 feet respectively. The danger level at Sangam is 21 feet while at Ram Munshi Bagh it is 18 feet.

This sparked panic across Srinagar city, and despite incessant rains residents living in the flood susceptible areas started shifting their belongings to the first and the second floors of their houses, and then taking their cars to the safer areas.

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Representational image. AP image

“I am trying take my car towards a safer place on a plateau. The Jhelum has already breached behind Punjab National Bank in Pampore town, like it did last time. The authorities failed to repair it since the last floods. There is panic, everywhere, people are leaving with whatever they could towards safer areas,” Shams Irfan, a journalist who lives in Pampore town on the outskirts of Srinagar, told Firstpost over phone.

In certain areas of Pampore town people were seen helping state government officials detect water seepages from under the banks. Pampore’s infrastructure had been damaged significantly during the September floods of last year.

Unconfirmed reports said at least 16 people were killed after mudslides triggered by the rains buried homes in parts of the valley like Budgam in central Kashmir.

People in low lying areas of Srinagar city were seen shifting children and aged to safer places.

“The government, like last time, said that there is going to be no floods. Until late evening we were waiting for the announcement, but that did not happen. We left out house early in the morning with children and aged parents,” Hafeez Shah, a resident of Rajbagh area of Srinagar told Firstpost over phone.

“Although, the water in Jhelum has not overflown in the residential areas but it is flowing dangerously high, like it did the last time. It looks terrifying,” he said.

What is also worrying people is the meteorological department’s prediction that the rains will continue for next four to five days.

State government officials say they are guarding the embankments and will make their best efforts to prevent breaches but there have already been minor breaches reported along the Jhelum in many parts of Srinagar. Although the government caught off guard again, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and five of his ministers are camping in Srinagar and supervising the efforts of the different departments.

The state government was largely missing in action last year when heavy rains continued for a week and floods killed 268 people and affected nearly 40 per cent of the the total population of the valley.

A report submitted to the State Disaster Management Authority earlier this month had warned the state officials of frequent instances of heavy rain in the Kashmir region and asked authorities to prepare for it. The Mumbai-based consultants from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences had predicted that it would be similar to the rains which unleashed unprecedented floods last year.

Rouf Ahmad, who lives in Bemina area in Srinagar, that was worst affected by last year’s floods said he was shifting his entire family a nearby place untouched by the waters the last time round.

“It is better to leave for the safer areas. When they could not do anything last year what will they do today,” Ahmad said.

Senior leader of PDP and education minister in the state government, Nayeem Akhtar, said that the government would do whatever they could.

“There are reports of the Jhelum overflowing at some points but they where minor breaches and all the efforts are being made to save to stop the overflow from Jhelum,” he said.

Former Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah said that he hopes and is optimistic about the lessons the administration learnt from the September 2014 floods.

“Last year the Centre told us elections were necessary and reconstruction and rebuilding efforts can only be undertaken after that but nothing happened. We request them to release the package requested by us at that time,” Omar said.

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Kashmir govt finally declares flood in Srinagar, 17 feared dead