Prayers, anxious wait for rescue in India's flooded Srinagar

Prayers, anxious wait for rescue in India's flooded Srinagar
Kashmiri residents walk along an embankment on the side of a bridge as they head for a higher ground during flooding on the outskirts of Srinagar on September 6, 2014.

SRINAGAR, India - Huddled with his elderly landlords on the top floor of his inundated home in India's Srinagar, Parvaiz Bukhari can see neighbours making a desperate response to devastating floods.

"From my window I can see they all have their arms in the air, praying," Bukhari said in Srinagar, the main city of Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir.

During the night the swollen Jhelum river burst its banks, flooding large parts of the picturesque city, following days of torrential monsoon rains across the state.

Despite calls to emergency services, Bukhari and his neighbours in the city's central Rajbagh area remain trapped, with the water reaching the second of their third floors by Sunday morning.

"I've seen a couple of boats go past but nobody has stopped," said Bukhari, AFP's reporter in Srinagar, adding that the water has risen to a height of about 12 feet (3.6 metres).

"We can't go out, the water is moving too fast. I can see gas cylinders, barrels, wood debris floating past," he added.

"We will have to move to the roof but we are also worried about the building collapsing."

Hundreds of soldiers, backed by helicopters and boats, have been deployed across the northern Himalayan state in recent days, following flash floods and landslides that have submerged whole villages and left more than 110 people dead.

In neighbouring Pakistan, some 142 people have been killed in floods and landslides also triggered by heavy rains, officials said Sunday.

Across Srinagar, a city of 900,000, many moved to higher levels or evacuated on Saturday night as waters flooded homes, the army headquarters and other government buildings.

Many have pulled together to flee on foot to safety, packing into community centres and wedding halls on higher ground.

Photos showed residents wading through thigh-deep waters clutching their belongings, and huddled in army boats with blankets.

At Shri Maharaja Hari Singh, the city's oldest hospital, patients were moved to the upper floors after the waters hit.

"Those who were able to walk were helped to the upper floors by attendants, others were taken on wheelchairs in the elevator," said local businessman Fareeh Ahmed, who lives nearby.

College lecturer Aakifa Javaid, 25, said she and her neighbours decided to pack their bags and flee northern Srinagar after elders from a local mosque announced on loudspeakers that "it would be a difficult night."

"Noone slept through the night. Even at around 2:00am people were moving out of their homes just for their safety," Javaid said.


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