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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Siddhartha Kumar, dpa

NEW DELHI — Indian troops stepped up rescue work Tuesday as the rain held off in Jammu and Kashmir state, but thousands were stranded in the worst floods in the region for 60 years.

State capital Srinagar was flooded by the Jhelum river and an estimated 400,000 people were stranded in the city and surrounding regions, broadcaster NDTV reported.

Disaster management agencies data showed that about 200 people had died since last week.

The toll included 27 killed in a landslide in Udhampur district.

“Only my husband and I have been rescued. Both my sons are left behind. My house was destroyed. I was stuck on the terrace for three days,” one Srinagar resident told CNN-IBN network.

“I am 60 years old and I have never seen such a situation here. This is really scary,” another resident added.

Thousands more were awaiting rescue teams and searching for their relatives.

By Tuesday evening, officials said the army and relief workers had rescued more than 42,000 people. Many teams were using boats in Srinagar, rescuing people from rooftops and terraces.

The army deployed 20,000 soldiers, while 61 helicopters and other aircraft were dropping relief supplies and transporting people.

“The Indian Army will not move back to the barracks until the last man is brought to safety,” army chief General Dalbir Singh said Monday.

Officials said the Jhelum River was receding in some areas, but water in the city’s Dal Lake was rising.

Road and communication links were cut off, making it difficult to reach stranded people.

The main highway linking the Kashmir valley to the rest of India was closed because of landslides, and could take about five days to be reopened, officials said.

Srinagar resident Sheikh Tariq, whose house was swept away in the floods, said his family was incommunicado.

“I have no idea how and where they are. The last call from them came three days ago. I am totally helpless,” he told NDTV from a university campus in Srinagar that has become an emergency refugee center.

AFP Photo/Punit Paranjpe

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Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.