Srinagar: Tawheed Bazaz, 35, a resident of this Jammu and Kashmir summer capital, had a premonition that the flood waters which had inundated the city centre, Lal Chowk, early last Sunday, would also reach their Mandir Bagh locality. “It came true just hours later as the muddy flood waters made their first appearance in our locality that evening after having inundated the posh areas of the capital,” Tawheed said.
As the family sat for dinner, he told his father and mother that they must all move out before it was too late as water had begun entering the locality.
Even Bazaz’s neighbours had advised them to shift to the nearby bakery building. However, Tawheed’s father advised his son to stay calm and not to press the panic button. “Flood waters have never entered our area. I have lived here all my life.”
“Late that evening I again went out and this time the water level was going up fast. I rushed in and took my father and mother upstairs. I thought we will be safe on the first floor.
“Suddenly there was a frightening thud and as I opened the window to see what had happened, I saw gushing flood waters entering our front yard and in no time inundated our first floor. The water level continued to rise menacingly and finally we decided to take shelter in the attic. I thought we were safe now,” Tawheed said.
“We were awake whole night and thought our story will be over with few more feet of water. I was really concerned about my parents. My wife and children had gone to my in-laws home in (uptown) Rawalpora three days back.
“My wife was worried and because of the breakdown of the telecommunication links we couldn’t talk. I got few calls from my friends that night who told me that the posh localities of Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Gogjibagh, Wazir Bagh, Lal Chowk, Maisuma and adjoining areas had all been inundated and that thousands were marooned. This added to our tensions.
“I watched dreadfully. Our ordeal had begun with daybreak as no help was in sight.”
Tawheed says that a bit of complacency did them in as never in living memory had the Jhelum breached its embankments and caused a flood situation in their locality near Lal Chowk.
“I started thinking of how to get to the bakery shop where most of our neighbours had taken shelter as the walls of our house started to develop cracks. An idea struck my mind and I started collecting timber planks lying in our attic. We had a big rope and I and my father started tying them to prepare a raft. We sat over it and moved out. Luckily we got inside a neighbours home and through a window we were inside the high rise and concrete bakery building.
“I heaved a sigh of relief as we joined our neighbours,” he added. His wife Rehana, 34, a government teacher, in the meanwhile contacted some friends and relatives to arrange a rescue boat. “However, her efforts couldn’t bear fruit.”
“Local volunteers moved in our area and they brought in bottled water and food into the bakery building for us. We survived and finally my wife arranged a boat after a gap of six days and we all were rescued.”
Then, there is the case of Khalida, 58, who had to virtually fight to get her mother, brother and his wife rescued from the posh Rajbagh locality. “They were on the third floor. I contacted everyone in the administration and pleaded that my mother, a diabetic patient needs evacuation. Thank God they were safe and were rescued after five long days,” Khalida said at the Rawalpora relief camp.
“I visited all the relief centres set up by the locals wading through the flood waters, thinking they may have been rescued.”
While Tawheed and others survived and were rescued there are still hundreds others who are stranded in their homes in the worst affected localities of capital Srinagar. Rescue teams have not yet been able to reach them. Scores of families are without water and food in the Bemina, Batmallo, Mehjoor Nagar and other localities, were the water levels are still high.
While the state administration virtually collapsed in the aftermath of the catastrophic floods, the army, air force and National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF) teams rose to the occasion.
The tireless efforts of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and teams of NDRF have not gone unappreciated.
Because of their efforts so far over 234,000 people have been rescued from different parts of Jammu and Kashmir, according to a defence spokesman.
“Eighty transport aircraft and helicopters of Indian Air Force and Army Aviation Corps are continuing their efforts in rescue and relief operations. The army has deployed around 30,000 troops for rescue and relief operations in the flood-affected area.
“So far, 2,451 sorties were undertaken by the helicopters and aircraft of armed forces and 3,435 tonnes of relief material has been dropped by the Indian Air Force. A total of 224 boats of Army and 148 NDRF inflatable boats are actively involved in the rescue operation,” the spokesman said.
It was not only the capital city that bore the brunt of the floods, south Kashmir districts in Kashmir valley and the twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri too were badly hit by the incessant rains.
“No one came to rescue us. They were busy in the posh areas of the capital city rescuing people. The administration should concentrate on other areas too as people are in dire need of safe drinking water and eatables,” said Abdul Rashid a resident of Mehjoor Nagar.
“Our house has collapsed now due to the floods. We have nowhere to go,” Tawheed said. He is very frightful of another challenge of nature, the fast approaching winter.
“They are promising us the moon, but I doubt the relief will reach the poor. The influential people will get the promised relief, but the same reaching the poor and people without connection is doubtful with uncontrolled corruption in the government having already touched the peak,” said Maqsood Ahmad, a resident of flood hit Rambagh area.