SRINAGAR

Fresh rain hampered rescue operations in Indian Held Kashmir Sunday a week after deadly floods swamped the Himalayan region, with medics and survivors describing nightmarish conditions in the devastated city of Srinagar.

After a few clear days, more rainfall accompanied by thunder and lightning hit relief operations in the worst affected areas of Srinagar, the normally scenic city on the Indian side.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who has come under fire over the slow pace of the rescue effort, admitted his government was “completely paralysed” in its immediate response to the disaster.

“We had no way to communicate with anyone, and other than a walkie talkie set...we were totally and completely isolated from everyone and everywhere,” Abdullah wrote in a first-person account published in the Indian Express newspaper on Sunday.

One woman, who gave birth in the hospital, told AFP of her rescue from the swirling floodwaters in the hospital. “We took refuge inside a mosque for three days after some local young men rescued us from the hospital,” she said, without giving a name. “We are in the middle of a sea without any help.”

Doctors at the state-run Bone and Joint Hospital in Srinagar scrambled to treat casualties after medical supplies were carried off by the waters. “We need medicines of all kinds, it is a disaster”, a doctor, speaking anonymously, told an AFP reporter while examining a patient. “Tons of medicines were just washed away.”

Medics are having to work round the clock to help treat patients who have sustained fractures, with submerged potholes a particular danger. “I made 20 casts today,” hospital worker Ghulan Hassan told AFP as he tried to prepare the casts in a room whose floor had caved in.

The new rainfall magnified the stench of death from animal carcasses, rotting vegetables and overflowing drains. “It makes your eyes burn, gives you a headache,” Mehraj-Ud-Din Shah, chief of the Indian Held Kashmir State Disaster Response Force, told AFP.

Officials said it was too early to assess the full extent of the disaster with many roads still impassable but Abdullah wrote that the recovery effort was “going to be a long, hard, and very steep climb”.

O.P. Singh, director general of the National Disaster Response Force, said the big worry now was of the spread of water-borne diseases.

“Many parts are still submerged in four to five feet of water and we are concentrating on supplying anti-diarrhoea, anti-infection medicines and using chlorine to avert diseases,” he said in Srinagar.

“We have had to halt our operations for some time and we are waiting for the weather to clear,” Indian Air Force spokesman Gerard Galway told AFP.