Srinagar: Sunday morning (September 7), water from Jhelum had just started to enter the compound of Asif Ahmad’s rented house near Hurriyat Conference (M) office at Raj Bagh here. It didn’t, however, look threatening; things were very much under control, still.
Unmindful of the slowly-rising water level, Asif, a banker by profession, was inside the two-storey house with his mother, wife, three daughters—5-years-old, two and a half-years-old, and seven-months-old—and a maid, also a minor.
As a routine, he wanted to start his car parked in the compound, but the water had damaged its battery already. Quite unusually, the vehicle didn’t start. Asif, basically from Kishtwar, wanted to have the battery dismounted and checked by his domestic help.
Just 10 minutes later, the family was running for life to the top floor of the house.
“Water started gushing into the locality, occupying the first and most of the second floor of the house within no time. The family took refuge on the topmost floor, waiting for the help to arrive from somewhere,” Muzamil, a close friend of the family whom they called first for help, told Kashmir Reader.
For several hours, no help arrived. Friends, including Muzamil, relatives, and the young volunteers couldn’t do anything for all approach roads had been cut off, and the water level in the locality was too high for any bravado to be attempted.
And then the trapped banker spotted a stray private boat. From the balcony of the top floor, he put his mother, wife, and the four girls into it, letting himself and the others wait to be rescued.
Boat was operated by a professional boatman. Carrying the family, he started rowing towards the spot of safety he came from. But there was a critical spot he had to cross.
“The boat needed to go between two flooded houses. As the boatman attempted to turn the boat, it capsized,” Muzamil quoted Asif’s distressed wife Nusrat as narrating.
“Everyone on board fell into the water. Under water, his wife was having a grip on her 5-year-old daughter, and the bag that carried baby food. Suddenly, something hit her head, and she lost both the girl and the bag.
“Then, somehow, her head popped out of the water to breathe air. And a lady in the nearby house made her hang on to a rod used to hang curtains. She was dragged to the balcony, saved.”
Nusrat could see her 5-year-old daughter hanging on to a tree top nearby. And the boatman and their maid were stranded on the rooftop of a house.
“The boatman carried a rope, and he used it to pull himself and the two girls to safety,” Nusrat told Muzamil.
But there was no sign of her seven-months-old and two and a half-years-old daughters. Her mother-in-law had disappeared too.
The survivors in the family were rescued to their relative’s house at Soura later. Two days after the incident, they offered funeral prayers-in-absentia for the deceased they didn’t posses the bodies. But Asif and Nusrat haven’t stopped looking for their two daughters.
“Two days ago, there was a rumour that two girls recovered from Raj Bagh area have been kept at Sanatnagar. We all rushed to see the girls, hoping that they may be the daughters of Asif and Nusrat, but not to be,” Muzamil said.
(Names of the some persons in the story have been changed on request of the family)