Srinagar: After surviving 12 agonizing days and nights on the attic of his nearly submerged house here with his family, Sheikh Muzaffar Ahmad is convinced he is leading a new lease of life.
A senior prosecuting officer in Jammu and Kashmir’s anti-corruption unit, the 45-year-old was confined with his 70-year-old mother, wife and two children in Shivpora, the first locality to get inundated as unprecedented floods enveloped the state on the night of Sep 7.
For the first 10 days, the family survived on what little they could cook, thanks to a gas cylinder and stove they took with them in a hurry as the Jhelum’s waters overflowed into Shivpora.
The traumatized family starved the last two days as stocks of food and water ran out. All they were left with were desperate prayers to god.
As the flood waters began receding after 12 days, Ahmad realized that he and his family were left with just the clothes they were in — besides the cooking range and some utensils.
Even today, he is unable to come to grips with reality.
“We lost all household goods including the clothes we had. My outlook on life has undergone a transformation. There is no doubt I am living a second life along with my family,” Ahmad told IANS.
The floods ravaged Jammu and Kashmir and killed 315 people, 81 of them in the Kashmir Valley and 234 in the Jammu region. Srinagar city accounted for 43 deaths.
While there were more deaths in the Jammu region due to flash floods and landslides, the damage to public and private property, business and farms was huge in the valley.
Ahmad recalls how it all began.
“People in Shivpora were keeping a close watch on the Jhelum embankments to plug any breaches the swollen river might cause,” he said.
“Suddenly, somebody cried out that the embankment had been breached, just close to where we were standing.
“People starting running for dear life. In no time, water started entering the ground floor of my house. Within minutes its level rose to my waist.”
It was then that Ahmad’s wife and he had the presence of mind to take a cooking gas stove, a LPG cylinder and whatever edibles they could grab from the kitchen as they fled to the roof.
By then, the water level had menacingly risen to his chest level.
“There was a deafening roar as the water entered other houses. Our entire first floor was submerged,” said Ahmad.
“My children and wife started to panic. The house was old and the fear of the structure falling and burying all of us alive haunted us,” he told IANS.
Indeed, as he met up with other survivors, Ahmad learned that he had been taken for dead.
Ahmad is bitter that no one came to rescue his family when they were marooned.
Mansha Nisar, 28, who teaches environmental sciences in a Srinagar college, was comparatively lucky.
She and her parents — her father is a retired chief engineer — were rescued by the army after being holed up for three days in the attic of their two-storeyed home in Gogjibagh area here.
“We had given up all hope of survival. On Sep 9, an army helicopter flew over our home. It was looking for survivors to be rescued. We had no means of announcing we were trapped in our house.
“My father somehow managed to break the fibre glass on the rooftop and waved a white cloth which was luckily spotted by the helicopter. They waved a red flag confirming we had been seen. An army boat reached our house immediately and rescued us to safety.”
Nisar said that when the flood waters entered their compound, she had no doubt that the Jhelum was sending a loud and clear message.
“The river was telling us in unmistakable terms that we had encroached on its kingdom and wanted us to vacate or perish.”