8 die in Bani landslides, house collapse; Tarnah bridge damaged, traffic diverted to Old Samba-Kathua road

Body of a woman being retrieved from debris after landslide in Bani area of Kathua. More pics on page 3. — Excelsior/Pardeep
Body of a woman being retrieved from debris after landslide in Bani area of Kathua. More pics on page 3. — Excelsior/Pardeep

Heavy rain, floods wreak havoc; Chenab, Tawi flow near danger mark

Sinha, Dr Jitendra, Azad express grief over loss of lives

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, July 19: Five members of a family were among eight persons killed in landslides and house collapse incidents in remote Bani area of district Kathua while Tarnah bridge near Dayalachak on Jammu-Pathankote National Highway was damaged, stalling movement of traffic on this busy highway as heavy rains and floods wreak havoc across the region today.
All the major rivers of the region including Chenab, Tawi, Ujh, Basantar, Tarnah etc were flowing near danger mark while Jammu-Srinagar, Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch and Mughal Road and dozens of other roads were closed due to landslides in the region.
Due to falling of boulders and inclement weather, on-foot Yatra to Mata Vaishnodevi shrine from Katra base camp was suspended during morning hours and the helicopter and battery car service was also stalled. Katra- Reasi-Mahore road was also closed for vehicular traffic movement. Due to landslides at several places Mughal Road connecting Poonch-Rajouri districts with Kashmir via Shopian was also closed.
Reports from Kathua said that due to heavy rain in remote Bani area since last night till morning hours today, a Kucha house of one Mushtaq Ahmed collapsed at village Surjan where five members of a family were buried alive. The locals said that a PMGSY road is being constructed along this house and due to cutting work there was fear of landslide as agency/contractor initiated no protection work. Due to heavy rain and landslide, the house collapsed and five members of the family were buried under the debris.
The locals informed Police at Bani Police Station. SDM Bani Satish Sharma was also there at the headquarters. A police team, assisted by SDRF and Army jawans from the local unit rushed to the area and launched rescue operation. After long and hectic efforts all the five dead bodies including a woman and four children were recovered.
The deceased were identified as Zareena Begum (45), wife of Mushtaq Ahmed, Mushtaq’s two children- Shahbaz (14 yrs) and Arbaz (3 yrs); Mohd Asif (12), son of Abdul Qayoom and Nazia Banoo (11 yrs), daughter of Abdul Qayoom, all residents of Surjan.
One Sham Lal (45), son of Tara Chand, resident of Bhullari village in Bani was buried alive under landslide when he was sitting under a hill for easing himself during morning hours today. His body was also later extricated from the debris.
Ajay Singh (13), son of Mohinder Singh, resident of Sitti village in Bani had gone to his fields in Bani area alongwith his brother. He was also buried alive under debris after land slide while his brother escaped with some injuries.
Naseem Begum (50), wife of Mohd Rafiq, resident of Madhota washed away in mud slides while working in fields. Her minor child, however, was rescued by the local villagers. Her body was later removed from the mud.
Meanwhile, District Administration announced Rs 50,000 financial assistance from Red Cross for the deceased persons’ families.
SDM Bani, Satish Sharma told the Excelsior that Army assistance was sought in rescue operation at Surjan village and all the five bodies of a family were recovered by this evening. He said the financial assistance announced by the Deputy Commissioner Kathua will be disbursed to these families tomorrow. SDM said most of the incidents were caused due to cloudbursts and flash floods, followed by landslides. He said about 38 houses have been damaged partially or fully in Bani Sub Division as per reports received till this evening.
Referring to the condition of Road, Sharma said Basohli- Bani road has been blocked at eight points and it could not be restored till late this evening. He said the road is likely to be restored by tomorrow as the machines have been deputed to the affected area.
Meanwhile, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Union Minister in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh have expressed shock over the loss of lives in natural calamity in Bani area today and asked the administration to provide every possible assistance to the bereaved families.
Former J&K Chief Minister and DPAP Chairman Ghulam Nabi Azad also expressed grief over the loss of lives in Bani area and urged the Administration to provide timely help to these families.
In view of the rains and landslides besides the weather advisory for next two days, the District Administration, Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban and Reasi have closed schools for two days (July 20 and 21).
Reports said heavy flood in river Tarnah during early morning hours damaged three piers of 580 mts long bridge between Dyalachak and Chadwal Morh stations, on Jammu-Pathankote-Delhi National Highway, suspending movement of traffic at around 6 am today. After the three piers slightly tilted and sank, the police rushed to the spot and closed the bridge.
The vehicular traffic on both sides of this bridge came to halt and long traffic jam was created along the highway. Later, the Traffic police authorities and District Administration diverted the traffic via Chadwal-Sanji Morh to Hiranagar and Londi -Koota Morh along Old-Samba-Kathua road. Massive traffic jams were created at many places as this road is not so wide.
The locals said that hardly few days ago, due to heavy flood in Tarnah river, the base of two piers was exposed and it needed immediate protection work. Some NHAI officers though paid visit there but avoided urgent protection work. Today morning, heavy flood in the river caused extensive damage to the piers and this 580 mts long bridge which was constructed hardly 12 years ago by ITD Cementation India Ltd, having engaged the consultancy, G-Eng Advisory Services.
About 60 years old bridge on this river, adjoining the damaged one, is being dismantled for constructing another six- lane bridge for Delhi-Katra Express Way. This was the only bridge rendering service to the two-way traffic on this 4- lane highway. It has been alleged that mandatory Mobile Bridge Inspection and tests with regard to strength of pavement/FWD was avoided to save the costs by the agency.
Project Director National Highway Authority, Jammu-Pathankote Sector, Yash Pal Jadon when contacted said that Tarnah bridge incident happened just due to natural calamity. He claimed that hardly three days ago, he had visited the site with a team of engineers and everything was alright. When asked about any inquiry with regard to sub-standard work or some fault with the design of the bridge, the Director said he visited the site along with DC Kathua today. Even Chief Secretary also reviewed situation this evening. A team from IIT Jammu was also deputed to study the cause and remedies now. A decision in this regard will be taken, he added.
Pal said all the three damaged piers and superstructure will be dismantled and reconstructed again. This process will take long time. The only way is to divert traffic to Old Samba- Kathua road or Dhar Road. Moreover Bailey bridge was not feasible at this place, he added.
The traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was also suspended after landslides took place at Mehar, Cafeteria Morh, Kela Morh, Marog and several other places since early hours today. The road was partially restored after the weather improved at around 2 pm. The stranded vehicles and Shri Amarnath Ji yatra vehicles from Baltal and Pahalgam side and Chanderkote and Jammu side were allowed to move and the road was again closed for movement of other vehicles from Jammu or Srinagar side, for carrying urgent repair work. A large number of vehicles have been stranded at various places along the highway in Kashmir and Jammu side.
“The highway is still closed and people are advised not to travel till the restoration work is completed,” a Traffic official said.
The traffic on Dalaya Chak- Chhallan-Billawar Road remained suspended for about three hours during morning after heavy flood in a Nallah near Pranjanli village. While all other culverts and bridges have been completed by the agency but the construction work on this important bridge has been abandoned by the contractor, the locals alleged.
Meanwhile, all the government and private schools were closed for the day in Doda and Kishtwar districts as a precautionary measure. For next two days also, the schools will remain closed in view of weather advisory. The decision was taken for the safety of the students as the water level in the Chenab river and its tributaries is on the rise amid continuous rainfall, an official said.
Katra, the base camp for pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi shrine, received 315.4 mm rainfall, an all time high, a spokesperson of the meteorological department said.
“This is the heaviest rainfall since 1980,” he added. Udhampur received 296.4 mm rainfall, Reasi 213.5 mm which is the higher in the region followed by 129 mm in Jammu area.
The chopper and battery car service at the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine atop Trikuta hills in Reasi district was also suspended due to the inclement weather While Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrimage was going on, the new battery car track to the shrine was closed in view of the apprehension of shooting of stones and landslide, the officials said.
They said the helicopter service to the shrine was also suspended due to inclement weather.
Rivers and rivulets in many places, especially in Kathua and Samba districts, have reached close to or crossed the flood alert level with the weather office predicting more rains during next 24 hours.
“The flood situation is grim in Kathua and Samba as all the rivers including Ujh in Kathua and Basantar in Samba have crossed flood alert mark, while the water level in Tawi, Chenab and its tributaries in Jammu are nearing the danger level,” an official said.
At Akhnoor, the water level in Chenab river was about 33 ft at 6.30 pm which is alert mark and danger level is 35 ft. It was increasing for the last three hours as at 4 pm it was 32.2 ft. In Tawi river the water level remained 15 ft at 10 am while danger mark is 17 ft and alert 14 ft. Tawi River Front Project works suffered massive damage due to flood level today. Many low lying localities in Jammu witnessed water logging and movement of traffic was hit. A bridge at Gadigarh suffered further damage due to flood today. It was partially damaged sometime back. The public is suffering badly.
Ramnagar -Basatgarh-Dudu, Pancheri Mongri roads were also blocked. Most of the road in Reasi-Mahore-Budhal area remained blocked. Jammu-Poonch highway also remained closed for more than five hours today and was restored later. The power supply to many areas has been snapped due to falling of poles and damaged transformers.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted widespread to fairly widespread rainfall in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir over the next seven days.
An official of IMD Centre Jammu, said the Union Territory will receive widespread to fairly widespread rainfall in the coming week. “There was heavy rainfall in the past 24 hours in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir. The highest amount of rainfall occurred in the Katra belt of Reasi district,” he said.
“The recorded rainfall in Katra was 315.4 mm, categorised as extremely heavy,” Singh said.
This is the highest recorded rainfall in the region in 43 years, he said.
The IMD official advised the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims to adhere to the guidelines provided at their respective base camps.
“They should follow the weather reports and advisories of the administration before undertaking the yatra,” he said.
The IMD has also predicted the possibility of flash floods in low-lying areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Divisional Commissioner Jammu Ramesh Kumar in a high level meeting reviewed flood management measures and preparedness across the region. He assessed the damages caused in floods and rains in various districts. He called for swift restoration work and assential services affected due to flood and landslides.
Meanwhile, Kashmir was lashed by heavy rains this morning leading to water logging of several roads of Srinagar including city centre Lal Chowk.
Heavy rains lashed Kashmir this morning leading to waterlogging of roads in Srinagar and other places. Majority of the city roads were flooded with rain water after heavy showers that started at around 9:30 am.
A Meteorological official said that weather during the night would be generally cloudy. “Rain is likely in late night/early morning at many places of Jammu and scattered places of Kashmir,” he said.
From July 20-22, he said, intermittent light to moderate rain and thundershower was likely at “many places” of Jammu and at scattered places of Kashmir.
“Heavy to very heavy rain is possible at some places of Jammu region during this week,” he said.
The MeT official said that risk of “flash flood, mudslide, and landslides has increased due to heavy rain.”