Cloud Burst

J&K & Ladakh Cloud Bursts 2022: Missing Monitoring & Mitigation

(Feature Image: Cloudburst triggers flashfloods; 13 structures washed away, 20 damaged in Doda. Photo PTI/The Telegraph, 20.07.2022)

Tracking cloud burst incidents occurring before and during South West Monsoon season 2022 in North West Himalayan region, this report covers the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh. Kindly see the links for SANDRP’s reports covering the Uttarakhand (31 cloud burst incidents) and Himachal Pradesh (39 cloud burst incidents) in 2022. Our previous reports for J&K and Ladakh region can be seen here 2021, 2020, 2019.

May 2022

May 09, Budgam: 3 migrant workers including a woman and her two sons belonging to Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh were killed after a cloud burst incident[i] in Chandpuro village in Budgam district on May 09. The deceased were working at a brick kiln site at the time of the incident. (10 May 2022)

May 10; Kishtwar: The flash flood in Bhuta nallah washed away[ii] an old bridge connecting Machel and Padar on May 10 night. The collapse of the bridge cut off road connection between Gulabgarh and Machel. Several people were stranded on both sides of the bridge. This also posed set-back for Machail Yatra.

On July 29, 2021, several bridges including Kundel’s bridge on Bhuta nallah were washed away[iii] in Chashoti area of Padar. A temporary wooden bridge was built at Kundel. The dilapidated bridge at Chashoti village was also completely washed away on May 10 2022.

Another bridge built there was damaged on June 30 flash flood. On July 02, many visitors trapped in the flood were rescued by local administration. In absence of bridges, there was uncertainty over annual Machail pilgrimage beginning from July 25. By July 30, they built a 170 metre long bailey bridge[iv] at the place and removed it in first week of August after completion of pilgrimage despite objections by locals.

May 30; Samba: Several vehicles were trapped in a flash flood spell[v] in Devika river also known as Guptaganga following heavy rainfall in the Purmandal area. About 60,000 devotees had gathered at Purmandal on the occasion of Somawati Amawasiya. Some devotees had parked their vehicles on the dry river bed which increased to about four feet suddenly. Seeing the deluge the devotees ran helter skelter and jostled to rescue their vehicles.

Vehicles trapped in Devika river flash flood. Greater Kashmir.

Heavy rainfall also created havoc in Ghagwal area where a drainage nullahs got choked due to garbage and filth with rain water inundating Ghagwal link road. The flood water and filth also entered inside some shops on the roadside and the traders faced a tough time in depleting the same.

June 2022

June 16; Baramulla Few houses, standing crops were damage in flash flood[vi] after a cloudburst incident in Bakhipora village of  Rafiabad area on June 16 afternoon.

June 19; Poonch: A driver was killed[vii] and 7 shops were damaged after landslides[viii] about 200 meters away from main Bus Stand Mandi town triggered by cloudburst around 03:00 pm. The incident suspended vehicular movement on Poonch-Mandi road for hours. The truck was parked at a shop and was being unloaded when debris hit it and driver got stuck in the vehicle’s cabin.

According to the information, cloudbursts were reported at many places[ix] in Loran, Sabejan of Mandi tehsil due to which the water level in Pulast river increased causing panic among the people. The roads got submerged. The streets of the markets turned into ponds and water entered houses and shops causing sufferings and losses to local people.

A truck trapped in debris after cloudburst in Mandi area of Poonch. Excelsior/ Ramesh Bali

June 21; Budgam: At least 52 sheep, 8 horses and 5 cows died due to cloud burst[x] in Dishkhall, Durian, Lathermand, Ayud, Koreg and other upper forest areas in Budgam district on June 21. As per Dr Ashraf, District Sheep Officer the death toll may increase with time as the areas have no mobile accessibility.

Several districts witnessed heavy rainfalls, cloud bursts[xi] in past two days causing flash flood and landslide destruction but lacked adequate information. The Srinagar-Jammu NH remained closed for the second consecutive day as landslides and cloudbursts wreaked havoc, damaging many vehicles along the route. Reports from the NH said that a cloudburst damaged the bridge between Ramban and Peera, while as heavy land and mudslides have been reported near the Samroli area.

July 2022

July 05; Ganderbal: Flash flood triggered by a cloudburst[xii] in the upper reaches occurred in Kullan area of Kangan blocking the Srinagar-Leh highway for traffic. The flash flood in the nallah snaking through Shah Mohalla Kullan occurred early morning hours. Locals said that the floodwaters entered into a few nearby houses.

The families who are living nearby localities where flash floods occurred have urged the district administration to construct a bridge at the place besides construction of a concrete protection wall alongside the nallah prone to flash floods. Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Affected residents urged the district administration to construct a bridge at the place besides construction of a concrete protection wall alongside the nallah prone to flash floods. Another local said that they have many times urged administration to excavate boulders from nallah so that its width and depth is increased and water carrying capacity is increased. At least 5 residential houses besides a huge area of agricultural field suffered damage due to the flash floods caused by a cloud burst triggered by heavy rains in Kulan area 2 years back.

July 05; Jammu: A cloud burst incident[xiii] occurred in early morning hours in upper areas of Sinthan hill causing flash flood in local streams.  The Amarnath Yatra was suspended from both the Pahalgam and Baltal routes amid bad weather. The Srinagar-Leh National Highway was affected for hours due to a massive landslide.

July 06; Kishtwar: 2 incidents of cloud bursts were reported in Dacchan and Paddar areas of the district. In first incident 2 foot bridges and 2 watermills were damaged by flash flood[xiv] in Kibber nallah following a cloud burst incident in upper reaches of Saplota Cheer in Dachhan area around 03:00 pm on July 06. Last year, a cloudburst occurred on July 28 at Hunzar hamlet in the Dachhan area in which 26 lost their lives and 17 others wounded whereas 21 families had lost their residents. 

The flash flood[xv] in Ori nallah washed away a foot bridge, damaged crematoria and farm land along the stream. Villagers left their homes for safer places in the nick of time. Amar Singh, ex-sarpanch from Gulab Garh areas, said that, “Cloud bursts happened in dhoks (grazing lands) on the snowbound mountains. Immediately after the cloudburst, Dasni and Massu nallahs were flooded with flash flood posing a serious threat to the low lying areas, agricultural lands and villages along the nallah.

In second cloud burst incident[xvi], the Bhot and Mursu nallahs flooded dangerously in Paddar area. 20 houses adjacent to the Mursu were immediately evacuated. The administration banned rafting in Chenab river in Reasi district.

July 08; Anantnag: The most published cloud burst incident[xvii] took place some 2 km upstream Amarnath Shrine around 05:00 pm on July 08 during peak pilgrimage season. As a result debris and boulders in huge amount gushed[xviii] downstream washing away 3 lungars, about 40 camps reportedly set up inside and along the drainage channel there.

Since it was raining scores of pilgrims were inside the tents and at least 17 pilgrims were killed, over 60 injured and over 30 remained missing days after the incident. Hundreds of them were air lifted. 15,000 stranded pilgrims were shifted to the lower base camp of Panjtarni. The Yatra remained suspended for 3 days.

The annual 43-day pilgrimage commenced on the traditional 48-km Nunwan-Pahalgam route and the 14-km shorter Baltal route on June 30. The pilgrimage resumed on July 11. The pilgrimage is being held after a gap of three years. In 2019, the pilgrimage was cancelled midway ahead of the Centre abrogating Article 370 provisions. The pilgrimage did not take place in 2020 and 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Man-Made disaster: Media reports reveal that the causalities and destruction on ground was due to manmade reasons. Firstly, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) had allowed setting up of tent city including community kitchens, pilgrim camps in along the water course[xix] though the site is disaster prone and has faced such calamities in the past. Most of the tents that were washed away were located close to the stream or on its dry bed. Concerns were raised regarding the location of the tents at one of the meetings of the SASB.

Water inundates a campsite near the Amarnath cave shrine. PTI/The Tribune

“Amarnath stream flooded last year too, yet tents set up at same spot. This was done to accommodate as many people as possible at a time. A langar was also permitted to operate from this dry river bed. “It was well known that the water channel there is prone to flooding, but still the planning completely lacked any thoughtfulness, especially about the weather at this time of the year. The main effort was to show numbers,” said an official in the state familiar with the matter.” 

The entire focus of administration was security arrangements against terrorist attacks and there was no arrangement, equipment to deal with weather related disasters[xx]. The flash flood buried the camps along drainage channel under about 6 feet debris and there was no spade, shovels available to remove it. Even stretchers for injured were not placed at the site. Mobile networks went out of work crippling communication and hampering rescue operations.

Absence of weather alert: More than 2 years after the announcement, Doppler radar at Banihal was not functional[xxi]. It is a crucial missing link that could have helped avert the tragic deaths of over a dozen people at Amarnath Shrine.

Every year, IMD releases a special weather advisory for Amarnath Yatra. The general, daily forecast for the district on July 08 was of yellow alert. Even the evening forecast, up on the Amarnath Yatra forecast website at 4.07 pm, said, “Partly cloudy sky with possibility of very light rain” for all along the route from both Pahalgam side and Baltal side. There was no accompanying warning[xxii].

According to Anand Sharma, a retired meteorologist, given the number of pilgrims increasing every year and the logistics involved, there is a scope for increasing the AWS in the catchment areas and also raise the number along the route for better forecast.

Not Cloud Burst: Interestingly, the officials of Regional Meteorological Centre at Srinagar termed the incident a highly localized rainfall event[xxiii]. As per the data from the automatic weather station (AWS) at the holy cave, there was no rainfall from 8:30 am till 4:30 pm. “Then there was just 3 mm rainfall between 4:30 pm and 5:30 pm. However, between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm there was 28 mm rainfall,” news agency IANS report quoting an IMD scientist.

No Lesson from Past Disasters: There have been four cloudburst incidents near Amarnath cave during the Amarnath Yatra in the last 12 years. In 2010, there was a cloud burst near the cave. On July 28, 2021 a cloudburst near the cave trapped three people, who were rescued later. The flash flood also damaged some tin sheds installed for security personnel. There was no human death because the Yatra was not happening due to Covid-19 restrictions. 3 devotees including 2 kids had died in a cloud bust incident near Baltal base camp in 2015 apart from damage to some temporary structures.

Before this, nearly 250 pilgrims on Amarnath Yatra were killed[xxiv] in August 1996 on account of weather related vagaries including cloud bursts, flash flood and landslides. Similarly, 40 pilgrims were killed by a cloud burst incident at Pahalgam in 1969. Sadly, the SASB and district administration has learnt no lesson from these disasters and their emphasis mainly seems on increasing the numbers of visitors to climatically sensitive area.

July 8-Rajouri 2 people mining sand from Darhali Nullah near Atli Balla area were washed away[xxv] along with a JCB & tipper in flash flood triggered by heavy rains in morning of July 8.

July 9-Doda Flash flood debris entered[xxvi] inside Thathri town after a cloudburst in Gunti forest area around 3 am on July 9. Several vehicles were buried in the debris. Flash flood entered several shops & houses[xxvii] causing damage to property worth lakhs of rupees. The highway was blocked for some time. This was 4th incident of cloud burst in Thathri in past few years.

July 09; Kathua: About 80 cattle were washed away in flash flood[xxviii] caused by a cloud burst incident around 02:30 pm on July 09 near Khabbi Phatak, Kalrod area under Sanduran village in Bani sub-division. The area was cut off from mobile network and the administration came to know about the accident in the evening. Days after, 3 families, who had gone to graze cattle in Dhonk were rescued. Carcasses of 20 sheep and goats were also recovered.

July 17; Kathua:- 2 houses were damaged by a cloudburst during morning hours[xxix] at Kodal Nagali village in Bani Sub Division. No loss of human life was reported. The inmates escaped safety and were accommodated in the nearby houses.

Heavy rains in Mendhar area during night caused extensive damage to the shopkeepers as the flood water entered many shops in the town. It further exposed the Rural Development Department as the roads took the form of nallahs due to blockade of drains. The local traders alleged that local RDD authorities failed to clear the drains before rainy reason.

July 17; Kupwara A cloud burst[xxx] incident in hill area of Handwara in morning hours flooded a local school with muck and debris. 

July 20; Doda: Excessive rainfall and multiple cloud burst incidents[xxxi] during interviewing nights of July 19-20 caused flash floods in locals streams and Kalnai river in the upper reaches of Kahara in Thathri sub division. As per reports available with The Chenab Times, floods hit Charwah village in Kahara and it suffered a huge loss of property and land. About 7 residential houses, 3 shops, 2 gharats, 1 TRC, 1 bridge and a private school building were destroyed and buried under the debris due to heavy rains and cloudburst.

Heavy rain triggers flash flood in Kahara area. (Image: News18)

Many link roads including Kahara-Tanta, Kahara-Jai, and Kahara-Bhatoli suffered damage due to floods. The cloudburst destroyed crops, fruit trees and roads as well as water and electricity systems on a large scale.

In the Chilly area of Bhalesa cloudburst and heavy floods caused a huge loss[xxxii] to public property as it washed away the livestock. Besides this, there is a huge loss reported from many other villages in the Kahara.

13 structures including a school building, 8 water mills, 3 shops were washed away[xxxiii] and at least 20 others got partially damaged in flash floods triggered due to cloudburst in Tanta area of Kahara tehsil, SDM Zargar said. A portion of the Kahara tourism reception centre, Bhadarwah Development Authority, was badly damaged.

20 July-Baramula Standing crops were damaged in flash floods[xxxiv] triggered by a cloud burst in upper reaches of Hamam Markoot village of Rafiabad on July 20. In the aftermath of flash floods, the road at Mundaji was cut off, leaving over a dozen locals stranded in the area. They were later guided to use alternate routes to ensure their safe evacuation from the site.

July 24; Poonch:  An incident of cloudburst occurred in the Chakkan Da Bagh area[xxxv] on the Line of Control amid around 01.30 am on July 24 causing flash flood in Rangarh nullah and adjoining areas and resultantly damaging Trade Center and its boundary wall and paddy, maize crops standing on several kanals of agricultural land. The Poonch-Ravalakot road was also damaged. Dozens of police personnel deployed for the security got trapped in their building who were safely evacuated later. The truck terminal built with crores of rupees in front of the trade center was filled with debris and sludge. Fakirdara villagers in the last village of LoC, faced difficulties in reaching their homes.

July 26; Bandipore:- A cloudburst at the upper reaches of Tulail[xxxvi] on July 26 caused scare among Chakwali and Gujjran villagers and flash flood in in the Kishanganga river. Officials said there was no loss of life or property except to small wooden bridge near Abdullan village. A tanker full of diesel also overturned in the gushing water.

July 27-Budgam A 19-yr-old girl died[xxxvii] in a cloud burst incident in Khariyan Khansahib area.  The girl-Rubeena was rushed to SDH Khansahib, doctors declared her dead on arrival.

July 28; Jammu:- Intense rainfall coupled with cloudbursts triggered massive flash floods[xxxviii] in Jammu parts damaging many residential houses and other structures on July 28. Officials said that rainfall in Jammu between 8.30 hours to 9.30 hours recorded around 98 mm, which is close to a cloudburst (100mm). “Several people escaped unhurt when an old building collapsed due to heavy rains in the Kanak Mandi area. Most of the roads and dozens of colonies in Jammu city were inundated due to heavy rainfall gauged over 80 mm in a few hours,” they said.

Dozens of houses and structures suffered damage due to rains, flash floods and landslides in Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Udhampur and Reasi districts. Authorities rescued some school children and teachers in city outskirts while some bridges washed away and scores of vehicles stuck on roads and highways in various districts of the region. The Jammu-Srinagar NH was also closed for traffic due to landslides and shooting stones in Ramban district, resulting the halting of Amarnath Yatra at Chanderkot. The water level of most of the rivers like Chinab, Tawi, Ujh, Basantar and other nallahs was running above the danger mark.

July 28; Kishtwar:- A wooden bridge over Marusuddar river connecting Choudraman village with Afti – a tehsil headquarters in Warwan area was washed away[xxxix] in the flash floods caused by a cloud burst. The incident also damaged public private properties including farming lands and disrupted mobile connectivity. Several other parts of the districts including Dacchan, Marwah, Padder were affected by heavy rains, flash floods and landslides.

July 31; Poonch: Several houses, shops and vehicles were invaded and damaged by flash flood[xl] after excessive rainfall even in Surankote town around 07:00 pm on July 31. Locals climbed on roof tops, second floors to save their lives. Several were rescued by police and army team. As per locals, such kind of flooding was never seen in the town before.

Locals walk amid damaged vehicles and property after flash floods in the Surankote area of Poonch. (PTI/HT)

Following heavy rainfalls, the drains passing through Potha bypass started overflowing flooding the market area with debris, stones. The flood caused extensive damage in the Kalai river bank area. Two persons on a JCB along Kalai river were washed away[xli]; one of which was rescued while the other one remained untraced. The situation remained appalling for three hours. Sudden flash floods[xlii] caused havoc and loss of crores to the local population including traders. Water flooded their homes, damaging items in shops, while more than a dozen houses suffered partial damage, about 30 vehicles were washed away. Local people said that four wards of Surankote town were affected by flash floods.

August 2022

August 11; Ramban A woman and a child were washed away and remained untraced[xliii] in a flash flood and landslide caused by a cloudburst in Neera village of Mehar area. Some houses and vehicles were also damaged in the incident. Traffic was closed on the Jammu-Srinagar NH due to landslides at Mehad and Cafeteria.

A man looks at the remains of a house damaged in flash floods on the outskirts of Jammu. Money Control.

Jammu district recorded highest 24 hours rainfall 238.8 mm in August[xliv] in past 26 years. Earlier on August 23, 1996, the district had witnessed was 218.4 mm of rain.

August 14; Udhampur One person was reportedly swept away[xlv] in flash flood in Mada nallah after a cloud burst incident in morning at Natha Top a tourist place ear Chenani -Nashri Tunnel.

Aug 17-Ramban Nearly 80 sheep, goats were killed in a cloudburst[xlvi] around 4 am on July 17 on the mountain above the Jawahar Tunnel in Banihal area on the Jammu-Srinagar NH. 20 shepherds of Kathua living in a temporary shelter were trapped in flash flood and evacuated by the rescue team. The camps of shepherds and their belongings were washed away.  The road leading to the security post above the tunnel was also buried under the debris.

August 19; Reasi:- Several houses were damaged[xlvii] in Talwara migrant colony due to landslides triggered by cloud burst in upper reaches.

August 20; Reasi:- Heavy rainfall triggered flash floods[xlviii] near Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine in Katra town. In view this, the upward movement of devotees in Mata Vaishno Devi temple was stopped for some time. The several devotees trapped in the flash flood were rescued. The deluge which locals claim witnessing first time in shrine area was reportedly caused by a cloud burst[xlix] near Trikoot hills.

August 26; Anantnag:- This video clip shows flash flood[l] in Hallan area of Larnoo after a cloud burst incident.

August 27; Kulgam:- A cloudburst incident[li] occurred in upper reaches of Tangmarg area in evening hours of August 27 creating flash flood and water logging in Cheki Vatu and Ansoor villages. About 150 locals stuck in flash flood were rescued by the relief teams. The water level of local drains suddenly increased inundating roads and homes apart from damaging goods. The flash flood also damaged around 30 houses and fruit orchards in the area.

LADAKH

July 05; Kargil:- Flash floods triggered by heavy rains and cloudbursts[lii] caused massive damage to the property and agricultural land in several areas of Sankoo Sub Division of Kargil district in Ladakh Union Territory. According to the reports, the flash floods damaged residential houses, washed away roads and bridges, inundated several agricultural fields in Karkit Khunda, Achambur and Stakpa villages, among others.

July 24-Kargil A team of officials headed by SDM Mohd Sharif visited the cloudburst[liii] sites at five gorges in Shakar village to assess damages due to flash flood. The cloudburst was reported on the night of July 24 2022 at about 11 pm triggering flash floods. The team found that the road of Yokma Kharboo to Shakar was blocked at few gorges. The agricultural land was damaged by debris apart from the crops. Some structures were also damaged. Two flood-affected families were directed to shift in the guest house of Shakar. The incident disrupted water, power supply in the affected areas and clogged the drainage with muck & debris.

July 25; Kargil:- Three people were rescued from flash floods[liv] by the administration and the Army in Kargil district who were trapped in Taisuru’s Youljuk village due to a sudden rise in the water level in a river following heavy rainfall in evening hours of July 25.

July 28; Kargil:- A cloudburst triggered flash floods[lv] in Kargil city area, causing damages to vehicles and agricultural fields. Several houses were submerged and properties worth crores were damaged. The recent cloudburst incidents in many villages in Kargil and its adjoining areas exposed the region’s vulnerability to climate change and receding glaciers.

A sudden cloudburst triggered a flash flood in Ladakh’s Kargil resulting in damage to vehicles, agriculture fields, and other infrastructures. Fresh Headline

Though there are “very limited” studies on cloudbursts and flash floods in Ladakh, experts believe the global warming and receding glaciers are major reasons for recurring, now almost annual, disasters in the region that always leave a trail of damaged houses, ravaged fields, and uprooted orchards. “There is no doubt that Ladakh has become more prone to cloudbursts due to unusual climate change. It is turning hotter due to global warming. The snow cover of glaciers is receding. This has contributed to Ladakh’s vulnerability to flooding and cloudbursts,” said Sonam Lotus, director of the meteorological department, Srinagar.

August 15; Kargil:- The SSG road was blocked[lvi] at Drass due to a cloud burst.

Some Relevant Reports

Govt failure on cloudburst monitoring, forecasting, managingJust in first few weeks of this South West Monsoon in India and particularly in last two weeks there have been numerous cloudburst incidents leading to large number of deaths and destruction of human and natural infrastructure. Most of the time, the government just calls these disasters cloud burst and points finger at climate change, implying its helplessness, but happy that they have rescued the affected people. In reality, a lot can be done in terms of monitoring, forecasting and managing cloudbursts that is clearly not happening and is not part of government’s disaster management plans or actions.

Firstly there are some known places where the flash floods from cloud burst could lead to disaster, they need to be identified and habitations near and at risk at such locations need to be mapped and monitored to minimise the risks. The locations next to streams are clearly such hazardous locations and how can there be camps located right next to such streams as happened during the recent Amarnath caves?

Debris being removed as the road on Jammu Srinagar Highway gets blocked due to landslides following heavy rainfall, near the Samroli area in the Udhampur district. ANI/Greater Kashmir June 23, 2022

Secondly during the Uttarakhand floods of June 2013, there was a lot of discussion about possibility of setting up Doppler Radars that can predict such cloud burst with lead time of at least a few hours. Such forecasts can be hugely useful to save lives if we had disaster management action plans in place with clearly defined Standard Operating Procedures and responsibilities for specific roles clearly defined. But unfortunately, we have almost no progress in setting up such radars at identified vulnerable locations, at least at a few places where our resources allow us to begin with. That shows a major failure of current Union and relevant state governments.

That takes us to the third step: need to have such disaster management mechanisms with clearly defined roles and SOPs. They are clearly not present on ground, nor visible in action, except NDRF and SDRF, which can only be useful in emergency rescue.

We also need to prepare reports of each such cloudburst related disasters and also review them to learn lessons for managing future such disasters. We are not even doing that.

It is clear a lot can be and should be done to reduce the deaths and damages due to cloudbursts related disaster, which are happening not only across the Himalayas from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, but also in rest of India, with increasing frequency, intensity and spread. The governments cannot feign helplessness by calling such disasters cloudburst related disasters. https://sandrp.in/2022/07/11/drp-nb-110722-govt-failure-on-cloudburst-monitoring-forecasting-managing/   (11 July 2022)

NGT issues notices Chief Sec., SPCC over Amarnath calamityHearing a petition alleging non-compliance of norms leading to deaths during Amarnath cloud burst incident, the NGT issued a notice to the Chief Secretary and the State Pollution Control Committee on Sep 2. The bench termed the casualties a result of ignoring safety standards while allowing installation of tents in drainage channel area. It asked the respondents to submit an action plan to prevent the violation & accident within a month. The matter was listed for Nov 4 2022. https://www.amarujala.com/jammu/ngt-issues-notice-to-principal-secretary-on-those-killed-in-amarnath-yatra (6 Sep 2022) The petitioner submitted that the riverbed and floodplain have to be kept free for environmental functions & also to avoid such accidents. https://www.canindia.com/ngt-seeks-action-plan-from-jk-chief-secy-over-safety-norms-for-amarnath-pilgrims/ (5 Sep 2022)

Hearing the plea on Dec. 8 2022, the NGT has directed the administration to create public facilities away from river bank areas during Amarnath Yatra and to adopt necessary security measures for the safety of the pilgrims and protection of the environment. The plea had mentioned that the environmental and safety norms were violated in setting up tents for pilgrims on the dry river bed near the holy cave shrine of Amarnath this year causing deaths of 16 pilgrims on July 8.

The concerned authorities, in their reply, submitted that they were committed to complying with the environmental norms and would ensure that such incidents do not recur in future. Taking note of the reply, the bench said, “The incident is a natural calamity and it is beyond human limits.” https://www.amarujala.com/jammu/augment-infrastructure-for-amarnath-yatra-at-distance-from-riverbed-ngt (9 Dec 2022)

Security forces busy in rescue operation near the Amarnath cave. PTI/The Tribune

Can’t Rule Out Cloudburst: DG, IMDThe ferocious flash flood near the Amarnath cave was triggered by a cloudburst in the upper reaches which remain inaccessible to the country’s weather department, said India Meteorological Department (IMD) head M Mohapatra in the aftermath of the tragedy. “We have 15 automatic weather stations along the Yatra route, and one automatic weather station just over the Amarnath cave which reported around 28mm rain. But that does not mean there was no cloudburst. Certainly, there has been rainfall away from the holy cave in the upper reaches because of which the water came gushing down the hills. Since we do not have any observatory up there, we cannot confirm. But we cannot rule it out either,” said Mohapatra.

“A cloudburst is a very highly localized event, with a size of 1 kilometre or even less, and a short life cycle of few minutes or less than an hour. Its detection itself is very difficult, especially in western Himalayan region where there are so many higher reaches and ground observations are nearly impossible. We can only depend on remotely sensed observations from satellites and radars,” he added.

Amarnath cave-site pre- and post-disaster @Planet images. One can see the scar created by the debris flow and devastation of camping site very vividly. Irfan Rashid.

Satellites can provide data every half an hour, which indicates cloud development, intensity and its movement. Based on this, the department issues forecast for heavy or intense rains. But, in between, a cloudburst can occur. Radars, on the other hand, have higher resolution, provide data every 10 minutes, and can detect clouds holding more water.

“Radars are our best bet, but even they have their own limitations. Their radiations can get obstructed by hill ranges. Often these tall, dense convective clouds less than 1 kilometre can escape the radar. We will not get many pixels to describe that type of convective clouds. The clouds behind a hill will also not be covered. It is not possible to increase their number, since there are challenges of accessibility, network connectivity and availability of land,” he said. “The resolution of visual images from these radars is still 1 km, but for Infrared (IR) images (day and night) it is 4 km.”

There are now four X-band radars in the western Himalayan region worth Rs 6.5 crore each with a range of 100 kilometres in Srinagar, Leh, Jammu and another is coming up in Banihal near the Amarnath cave. Hit by operational delays, the radar will be operational within the next few days, said Mohapatra.

“But even then, one cannot predict cloudburst,” said the IMD head. “In fact, not just India, but cloudburst cannot be predicted anywhere in the world because we do not have the numerical models with a capacity to predict events of such small scale. All we can do is predict an intense spell of heavy rainfall. For that type of scale, we need observations and computational models. The current state-of-art numerical models do not have the capacity to predict these events worldwide.” https://www.news18.com/news/india/exclusive-cant-rule-out-cloudburst-says-imd-dg-on-amarnath-tragedy-admits-detection-nearly-impossible-5553799.html (14 Jul 2022)

MeT installs `Doppler Weather Radar’ on Kashmir highway Meteorology Department has installed a state-of-the-art Doppler Weather Radar at Banihal in a bid to manage natural disasters by means of early warning systems in Jammu and Kashmir. In the backdrop of the September 2014 floods, a Doppler Weather Radar was installed at the MET department, Barzulla in Srinagar. The radar system was put in place to give an accurate forecast and provide advance forecasts about heavy rains, cloud bursts, snowfalls, and avalanches. However, the lone radar has not been able to provide an accurate weather forecast for the entire UT. Following this, the department identified three more places in J&K including Jammu, Banihal Top, and Leh for the setting up of the radar.

Deputy Director MET, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad told The Kashmir Monitor that the radar at Banihal has been installed and made operational. He said it is installed at an altitude of 3000 meters and covers areas like National Highway J&K, Chenab Valley, and major parts of the valley including the Amarnath Yatra route,” Dr. Mukhtar said.

Moreover, the frequency of extreme weather conditions like cloudbursts & flash floods has shown an increase in Jammu & Kashmir. Official figures reveal that J & Kr have recorded nine adverse events including flash floods and cloudbursts in May, June, & July 2022. https://www.thekashmirmonitor.net/cloudburst-flash-flood-windstorm-met-commissions-doppler-weather-radar-on-kashmir-highway-to-prevent-natural-disasters/ (22 Jul 2022)

Year after Hunzar cloudburst , bodies of 18 missing persons untraced The chairperson of District Development Council Kishtwar, Pooja Thakur said that the authorities were yet to declare the 18 missing persons as “dead”. “Compensation was given to those who were declared dead. However, the victim’s family members have demanded enhancement in the compensation amount for damage to the houses & cattle shed which they said was very less,” Thakur said.

She said that she had written to the higher-ups to declare the missing persons dead but had not received any response so far. “Nothing has been done in this regard too,” she said.

Seven people have been confirmed dead, whereas over 30 others are still missing after a flash flood triggered by a cloudburst washed away several houses in the Honzar village in the Dachhan block of mountainous Kishtwar district in July 2021.. (Photo credit: Voluntary body Ababeel/News 18)

Mohsin Mushtaq Waza, who is preparing for a competitive examination, was among the victim families. He said that nothing was done for the rehabilitation of the victim families post cloudburst. “The families are still waiting to be rehabilitated,” he said. “The families of the missing persons are still waiting for their lost loved ones.” Waza said most of the affected families were constructing houses on their own and some had taken loans. “The banks should waive off these loans as people are unable to pay them back,” he said. Waza said that the compensation offered to the families for the loss to the farmers was very less. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/state/hunzar-cloudburst-year-on-bodies-of-18-missing-persons-untraced  (04 July 2022)

Triggered by melting glaciers, massive mudslides in Kargil Unheard of in the past, massive mudslides in the northernmost of Ladakh are not only damaging agricultural fields and houses of people, but also triggering concern among experts who believe changes in climatic conditions are its root cause. Villages on the feet of mountains, especially in Zanskar region in Kargil, are facing the unique phenomenon of mudslides with such intensity that roads are getting blocked and fields filled with pebbles and slush, making cultivation impossible. Experts say it is not the rain but the intense heat in the region that loosens the soil, which flows downhill during rainfall. Melting of glaciers at a high speed due to heat is another apparent reason behind the mudslides. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/j-k/triggered-by-melting-glaciers-massive-mudslides-in-kargil-411208  (11 July 2022)

Wrath of Climate Change Bilal Bashir Bhat The climate disaster is here with soaring heat across Jammu, erratic weather phenomenon with increasing and devastating cloud bursts, and flash floods in Jammu and Kashmir leading to deaths and damage to property worth lakhs. In the last few months, especially in July 2022, we have witnessed increasing cloud bursts and flash floods. Devastating cloud bursts hit the Balthal (Songmarag), Doda, Poonch, Kathua and many other districts leading to deaths, injuring many, and damaging property. Erratic rainfall, snowfall patterns and unusually warm winters are some of the characteristics of climate change in Jammu and Kashmir. The increasing average temperature has resulted in melting glaciers and greater precipitation, which could lead to disaster in the state. The early snowfall, heat waves in winters, cloud bursts, and Flash Floods in summers are indicators of Climate change in Jammu and Kashmir and the effects of climate change are already being felt in the Kashmir valley.

According to a report prepared by the State Disaster Management Authority, since 2010, many flash floods and cloudbursts which have hit J&K resulted in the killing of 300 people. In 2022 alone cloud bursts killed almost 40 people and injured many in Jammu and Kashmir. The revenge of Climate change is increasing and we should act to prevent this increasing wrath. Policymakers, humanitarian and development organizations alike need to address, prevent and lessen the fatal impact of climate change before it’s too late. https://kashmirobserver.net/2022/08/03/wrath-of-climate-change/  (03 Aug. 2022)

5 tourists die in flash flood The recent cloudburst induced flash flood in Neelum Valley of Azad J&K had swept away five young tourists from Punjab, officials confirmed on Aug. 18, a day after the body of one of the victims was fished out from the river. The cloudburst had unloaded huge amount of water in Ratti Galli Nullah, some 6 km downstream of the famous glacial lake, during 5-6 pm on Aug. 16, partially damaging and destroying some houses, vehicles & foot bridges along its course. https://www.dawn.com/news/1705611 (19 Aug 2022)

Summary

Through available media reports, we could compile 36 incidents of cloud bursts occurring in J&K (32) and Ladakh (4) region before and during south west monsoon 2022. 6 incidents have taken place in pre monsoon months of May (3) and June (3), all in J&K region. 22 of these disasters (19 in J&K and 3 in Ladakh) have been witnessed in July. The remaining 8 (7 in J&K & 1 in Ladakh) have been reported in Aug 2022. Unlike in Uttarakhand & Himachal Pradesh, we could not find such incidents in Sep-Oct in these UTs. 

Out of 20 districts of J&K, the disaster has struck 17 with maximum 4 happening in Kishtwar, followed by 3 each in Budgam, Doda and Poonch districts; 2 each in Kathua, Baramulla, Ramban, Jammu, Anantnag and Reasi districts and 1 each in Rajouri, Samba, Ganderbal, Kupwara, Bandipore, Udhampur and Kulgam districts. In Ladakh all the 4 cloud burst incidents (3 in July and 1 in August) have taken place in Kargil district.

LoC Trade Centre heavily flooded after cloudburst and flash flood in Poonch on July 24, 2022 . Excelsior/Romesh Bali

At least, 25 human lives were lost and scores were injured in flash floods and landslides triggered by these cloud burst incidents. Similarly, about 225 cattle were killed and over 80 houses including shops, cowsheds; over a dozen foot and road bridges and water mills were partially or fully damaged in cloud burst aftermath.

All the human casualties have taken place in J&K region with maximum at least 17 during July 8 disaster at Amarnath Shrine. This excludes over 30 persons whose bodies have not been recovered as yet.

Almost all the geographical areas in both UTs be it hill stations, religious sites, defence settlements or urban towns have faced the cloud burst disaster severely impacting the public infrastructures and private properties including interior roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, water and power supply lines, agricultural lands, crops and orchards.

While the numbers and impact of cloud burst disasters is gradually increasing; the monitoring and mitigation arrangements are totally inadequate. In most of the cases, the destruction has been a result of unplanned developments and encroachments of drainage channels. The death toll in Amarnath shrine is an example of government negligence.

Local residents assess the damage after a mudslide in Stakpa village of Kargil district in July 2022. The Tribune

Unfortunately, the cloud burst affected people and villages have been suffering miserably for months in want of adequate compensation and restoration of basic amenities including water, shelter, roads, bridges etc. At the same time, the new climatic disasters are increasing in the region. The mud slide incident after heavy rainfall in Zanskar valley, Kargil in July month is unseen before. Researchers event suggest that the Amarnath clamity could be a result of permafrost melting.  

The data and figures are on the basis of available media reports. Given the ongoing restrictions on local media, there could be other such incidents going unreported. Some of the multiple cloud burst incidents covered here have not been analysed while some incidents counted here lacks adequate information.

Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

References:


[i] https://weather.com/en-IN/india/news/news/2022-05-10-rain-over-jammu-kashmir-himachal-uttarakhand-till-may-13  

[ii] https://www.jagran.com/jammu-and-kashmir/udhampur-machel-lost-contact-with-the-bridge-over-bhut-nala-due-to-the-strong-flow-of-water-22708709.html

[iii] https://www.jagran.com/jammu-and-kashmir/udhampur-kundel-bridge-on-the-verge-of-overflowing-on-the-way-to-machel-22859344.html

[iv] https://www.amarujala.com/jammu/army-built-170-feet-long-kundel-bridge-in-record-time-in-kishtwar

[v] https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/flash-floods-in-devika-create-havoc-for-thousands-of-devotees/

[vi] https://www.greaterkashmir.com/kashmir/cloudburst-causes-damage-to-houses-crops-in-rafiabad 

[vii] https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/driver-dies-truck-7-shops-damaged-in-cloudburst/  

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[ix] https://www.jagran.com/jammu-and-kashmir/poonch-problem-from-rain-in-punchh-22817281.html

[x] https://www.greaterkashmir.com/kashmir/cloudburst-kills-65-livestock-in-budgam-forests

[xi] https://kashmirreader.com/2022/06/23/rains-wreak-havoc-in-kashmir/

[xii] https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/flash-flood-hits-kullan-village-in-ganderbal 

[xiii] https://www.amarujala.com/jammu/heavy-rain-halts-amarnath-yatra-srinagar-leh-highway-closed-cloud-bursts-in-synthontop

[xiv] https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/cloudbursts-in-kishtwar-upper-reaches-damage-property-crops

[xv] https://www.newsnationtv.com/states/jammu-kashmir/cloud-bursts-in-jks-kishtwar-and-paddar-289858.html 

[xvi] https://www.amarujala.com/jammu/jammu-kashmir-weather-clouds-burst-at-two-places-in-kishtwar-rafting-banned-in-reasi-river 

[xvii] https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/amarnath-flash-flood-death-toll-rises-to-16-search-on/cid/1873966

[xviii] https://www.amarujala.com/photo-gallery/uttar-pradesh/kanpur/amarnath-dham-cloudburst-amarnath-yatra-latest-news-and-photos-passengers-of-kanpur-stranded-in-amarnath-narrated-their-ordeal

[xix] https://indianexpress.com/article/india/amarnath-cloudburst-rescue-operation-casualties-8018434/

[xx] https://www.amarujala.com/india-news/amarnath-cave-cloudburst-sources-said-cloudburst-near-the-shrine-is-not-a-new-thing-last-year-on-july-end-there-was-a-cloudburst-at-the-same-place

[xxi] https://www.etvbharat.com/english/national/bharat/amarnath-tragedy-could-have-been-averted-if-doppler-radar-at-banihal-was-functional/na20220709153624050050334 

[xxii] https://www.india.com/news/india/amarnath-tragedy-not-a-cloudburst-but-highly-localised-heavy-rainfall-imd-5502154/

[xxiii] https://www.amarujala.com/jammu-and-kashmir/amarnath-cloud-burst-25-mm-rain-in-one-hour-caused-the-accident

[xxiv] https://www.amarujala.com/photo-gallery/jammu-and-kashmir/amarnath-cloud-burst-250-amarnath-pilgrims-were-killed-in-1996

[xxv] https://navbharattimes.indiatimes.com/state/jammu-and-kashmir/jammu/two-washed-away-in-flash-floods-in-kashmirs-rajouri/articleshow/92753443.cms

[xxvi] https://www.amarujala.com/jammu/cloud-burst-in-doda-s-thathri-vehicles-were-buried-shops-and-houses-filled-with-water

[xxvii] https://www.amarujala.com/photo-gallery/jammu/cloudburst-in-doda-jammu-and-kashmir-itbp-said-15-000-people-were-evacuated-from-amarnath

[xxviii] https://www.amarujala.com/jammu-and-kashmir/kathua/problem-waether-kathua-news-kathua-news-jmu2637075180

[xxix] https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/2-youth-rescued-from-betar-river-2-houses-damaged-in-bani-cloudburst/

[xxx] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va3L4QdZNQk

[xxxi] https://thechenabtimes.com/2022/07/20/huge-loss-as-cloudburst-flash-floods-hit-parts-of-dodas-thathri-bhalessa/

[xxxii] https://www.jagran.com/jammu-and-kashmir/jammu-huge-loss-as-cloudburst-flash-floods-hit-parts-of-doda-thathri-and-kahara-bhalessa-22907771.html

[xxxiii] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/cloudburst-13-structures-washed-away-20-damaged-in-flashfloods-in-jks-doda/articleshow/93007267.cms 

[xxxiv] https://kashmirobserver.net/2022/07/20/several-structures-damaged-in-cloudburst-in-jks-doda/

[xxxv] https://www.amarujala.com/jammu-and-kashmir/poonch/weather-poonch-news-jmu264602672

[xxxvi] https://www.greaterkashmir.com/kashmir/scare-in-twin-gurez-villages-after-cloud-burst-in-woods

[xxxvii] https://thekashmirimages.com/2022/07/27/teenage-girl-dies-due-to-cloud-burst-in-budgam/ 

[xxxviii] https://thekashmirpress.com/2022/07/28/heavy-rains-cloudburst-whiplash-jammu-parts/

[xxxix] https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/jammu/heavy-rain-affects-life-jammu-schools-remain-shut-2-districts-8057646/

[xl] https://www.amarujala.com/jammu-and-kashmir/poonch/heavy-rain-and-cloudburst-triggers-flash-floods-in-surankote-of-poonch

[xli] https://www.jagran.com/jammu-and-kashmir/jammu-flood-in-surankote-town-of-poonch-district-many-vehicles-damaged-22943290.html

[xlii] https://www.jagran.com/jammu-and-kashmir/poonch-westege-from-flood-in-surankot-22947405.html

[xliii] https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/two-dead-due-to-cloud-burst-national-highway-blocked-after-landslides-1986797-2022-08-11 

[xliv] https://www.amarujala.com/photo-gallery/jammu/26-year-record-of-rain-broken-in-jammu-many-houses-collapsed-highway-stalled-four-people-flown

[xlv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gdadu5xBj8Y

[xlvi] https://www.amarujala.com/jammu/jammu-kashmir-news-jammu-city-news-jmu2661503161

[xlvii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiR6K34QJbU

[xlviii] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/cloudburst-hits-dehradun-sdrf-swings-into-action-heavy-rain-triggers-flash-floods-near-vaishno-devi-temple/articleshow/93669869.cms

[xlix] https://www.jagran.com/jammu-and-kashmir/jammu-mata-vaishno-devi-yatra-restored-again-yatra-was-stopped-after-flash-floods-after-heavy-rains-22994610.html

[l] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq5KTwe_wPw

[li] https://kashmirobserver.net/2022/08/27/cloudburst-damages-30-houses-in-kulgam/

[lii] https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/flash-flood-hits-kullan-village-in-ganderbal 

[liii] https://ladakh.nic.in/sdm-shakar-chiktan-assesses-damages-caused-due-to-flash-flood/

[liv] https://kashmirreader.com/2022/07/26/3-people-rescued-from-flash-floods-in-kargil/

[lv] https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/cloudburst-triggers-flash-floods-in-kargil-1981160-2022-07-28 

[lvi] https://www.thekashmirmonitor.net/kashmir-rains-jammu-srinagar-highway-shut-traffic-suspended/

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