By Mohammad Zubair-u-din
We woke up to the sonorous sounds of rain. And in the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfello, “the best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain”. We too had the same feeling. We had no example in our life that how a few days of incessant rains could turn into a catastrophe of unimaginable magnitude. In the first place, we got to hear some terrifying news of human loss(es) across Jammu and Kashmir. It did sadden us but we never knew it was just a prelude to the impending disaster. Pulwama began submerging and there were frantic calls for help from Kakapora and the adjoining areas. News started pouring in of the obliteration of a few villages like Oakhal and Marwal. The images circulated via social media were heartbreaking.
We have a close relative there in Marwal and we heaved a sigh of relief upon hearing that he had left his village and taken refuge in a relatively safe area. However the very next morning we received a frantic call from him suggesting that he was in great peril. “I bid you goodbye. Take care of my children” were the words he uttered as he kept sobbing. He along with others had a miraculous escape but not everyone was lucky enough to sail through the wild waters. Radio Kashmir started a helpline and was broadcasting live the happenings across Kashmir.
On Saturday night , 06th September, 2014, the chief engineer gave some rough figures of the damage caused to the Power Development Department. It was unbelievable to hear that flood could bring in such wrath and fury. And, when I heard that about 15 houses were washed away in Panzgam, I called the mobile number of a very close friend of mine several times to enquire about his well being. It didn’t materialize. I prayed and hoped he and his family were safe.
No one in Kashmir can ever forget the fateful Sunday morning of 07th September,2014. The previous night had given the idea of how monstrous the flood could turn. However, a vague belief was there that Srinagar would be relatively safe. Meanwhile, Facebook began abuzz with the frantic calls for help from different areas of Srinagar like Kursoo Rajbagh, Rajbagh, Sonawar, Jawahar Nagar, Natipora and Mehjoor Nagar. The uneasiness increased. Meanwhile, the gushing waters forced Talha Jahangir to stop broadcasting live the dangerous situation the people were hemmed in. Silence from Radio Kashmir terrified the entire populace. The mobile network was next to stop functioning. Rumours started circulating. Everyone was out on the roads. Sighs and prayers became involuntary.
Like every other person, the young kids (orphans and the destitute) numbering about 60 of Baitul Hilal, Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar, which is run by Yateem foundation were caught in a great peril and could fell to the flood anytime. A few brave hearts from Soibugh Budgam, inspired by Dr Tariq, forgot their own agony and managed to get a few boats to try and save these kids. Perhaps this was the first rescue operation undertaken by people outside Srinagar to save the lives of people. In the meantime we visited the surrounding localities. In Syedpora, Budgam, the water level was rising to dangerous proportions and a number of people were trapped there. With no government rescue in sight a few boats were managed in the flood hit Soibugh to evacuate the trapped children, women and the elderly folk of Syedpora.
Meanwhile we lost contact with the rescue team which had left for Jawahar Nagar and the entire locality of Soibugh became concerned about their well being. Leave alone the female folk, the male populace could no more exhibit perseverance. However, at around 10:30 PM, a few members of this team returned along with a few terrified families of Jawahar Nagar and the orphans of Baitul Hilal, Jawahar Nagar. The other members, meanwhile, had kept themselves engaged to try and rescue as many people as possible. We had a reason to rejoice and feel proud of our brave hearts especially Iqbal, Zahid, Showkat and Majeed for their superhuman efforts. We began to appreciate the magnitude of floods. It was unbelievable to hear that two and three story houses were water logged and heavy vehicles turned turtle in the face of the flood fury. In the meantime , the duty officer Soibugh came with a message that a red alert had been declared in the peripheries of Soibugh. The announcement was made on the loud speaker and what was experienced afterwards is beyond the scope of words. It was a night whose memories are indelible but we would like it doesn’t haunt us in future.
Two days later we had a visit to the different areas of Srinagar to have an on spot assessment of the situation. The flood had wrought such havoc as to find a parallel in our living memory. The worst ever flood in a century sent Kashmir in tatters and tears. The premier state hospitals were submerged which increased the agony beyond the scope of description. Tens of thousands of cattle perished. Communication went off air at the first sign of deluge. The Kharif crops which were otherwise ready for harvesting were destroyed. The horticulture industry suffered the irreparable losses. On an estimate the apple industry alone suffered a whopping 8000 crore loss. The big business houses of Kashmir were and are still in shock. Labourers, street vendors, small traders, shopkeepers, carpenters, painters and the like were encountering an extremely tough phase . The entire economy of Kashmir got dislocated. No wonder we saw the women wailing, elders in tears, infant babies dying for medicines, sighs and uncertainty everywhere. The devastating flood further increased the psychological disorders in the war torn Kashmir. In fact with government missing on the ground, the flood fury effected a humanitarian disaster in Kashmir.
However, there was a silver lining .The volunteer rescue and relief operations undertaken by the valley youth were on in full swing which lit and sparkled hope that Kashmir would survive this terrible ordeal. And it proved right . Despite the official apathy and indifference towards the flood victims, Kashmir survived the ordeal and has risen more stronger.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org