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Kishtwar cloudburst: Inclement weather, lack of heavy machinery hamper search operation to locate 19 missing people


SRINAGAR: Inclement weather, poor connectivity, and lack of heavy machinery are hampering the search and rescue operation to locate 19 missing persons in Honzar village of the Kishtwar district.

Seven people were killed and 19 others went missing when a massive cloudburst triggered flash floods in Honzar village on Tuesday night. 


Six days have passed and there is no trace of 19 people even as the rescuers have recovered some cattle carcasses from the debris.

Police, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Army and volunteers of the Ababeel Trust have been working against all odds to locate survivors. 

Since the village is tucked away in the mountains, there is no road connectivity and as a result, the rescuers are unable to ferry heavy machinery including JCBs to the spot.

Nisha Nathyal, Commandant, 2nd battalion of SDRF, who oversees the rescue operations, told The Kashmir Monitor that inclement weather is playing spoilsport and lack of road connectivity is a big hurdle in ferrying heavy machinery to the area.

“Apart from flash floods, there were massive stone slides. Several houses were flattened by huge boulders. The bodies recovered initially were those people who were washed away by the gushing water. The place is far away. From the last point of the motorable road, it takes 4 to 5 hours to reach the place. Therefore lifting heavy machinery to the area is becoming difficult and boys are doing the operations manually,” she said.

Last week, despite bad weather, three Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service to airlift SDRF and NDRF teams to Kishtwar. Simultaneously critically injured people were evacuated from Sondar to Kishtwar. Besides, 44 NRDF and SDRF personnel and four medical assistants were also airlifted to the village.

“They are planning on those lines (airlifting machinery). The boys are doing their best. The problem is that the area is receiving intermittent rains. It reduces visibility. Visibility is very less.  Whatever machinery could be taken there, has reached the spot. It is not that the hill has crumbled, but the situation is almost like that,” Nisha said.

Around 34 houses have been affected by the flash floods. “Most of the people had vacated the houses when the cloudburst triggered flash floods. The people who were hit were at the banks of the Nallah when the tragedy struck. Nallah has now expanded. The magnitude of the problem is very large,” she said.