Srinagar: Two weeks after the floods hit Kashmir Valley, this city of about 15 million souls present a picture of the destruction caused by surge in Jhelum.
The heart of Srinagar, Lal Chowk, is still inundated. An uneasy silence greets everyone visiting this ruined city centre otherwise known for snarl-ups and honking vehicles besides the business activities. The only audible human voices are of the shopkeepers shouting at each other.
In this business hub of the state’s summer capital, every commercial or domestic structure bears signs of the water that gushed into its streets on Sunday last. The infrastructure of nearly all shops is damaged almost completely, and the goods contained in them are destroyed beyond recovery.
Not many people have yet returned to their shops, offices, or homes. And those who have, are seen trying to retreat whatever remains of their possessions. But for the majority there isn’t much left except the silt-laden debris.
“The water has destroyed everything from infrastructure to the stocks carried inside our shop,” Mudasir Ahmad, who runs a shop near court road, says.
When the flood water entered Lal Chowk, Ahmad, he says, wasn’t able to save the stock of expensive clothes. Water had occupied the approach roads to Lal Chowk before the young shopkeeper from Soura here could rush to his shop to save whatever he could.
“I could never imagine Lal Chowk looking like a river. Had I sensed the devastation heading our way, I would have done my utmost to save at least the expensive goods inside the shop. But all is gone now,” he laments.
Like Ahmad, several shopkeepers in Abi Guzar, Lambert Lane, M A Road, Forest Lane, Regal Chowk, Goni Khan, or Hari Singh High Street have visibly suffered heavy losses. They too are busy assessing the losses, and equally heartbroken by the sight of devastation.
“Even the shutters of the shop need repairs,” sobs Yasin Ahmad, who owns a shop in the Forest Lane market, while trying to assess the damage water has caused to the market.
As per the unofficial rough estimates, the financial losses suffered by the Valley is not less than one trillion rupees. It includes the losses to the housing sector, business community, agriculture, banking sectors and others.
The business community alone is facing multidimensional losses. Apart from the damage to property, flood has caused huge losses by paralysing the business activities for nearly two weeks. And the normalcy still remains a distant remain for most part of Srinagar.
With the water now turning stagnant, most areas here have started to stink.
At Karan Nagar, another business centre close to Lal Chowk, the smell has become almost unbearable. Most people move around with masks or handkerchiefs around their faces due to the stench emanating from Gole Market, the main business point around Karan Nagar.
“This is shocking,” says Shazia (name changed), a frequent visitor to Karan Nagar.
“I come here often, and this place is always so busy with so many activities. But today, I can barely walk in this stench. Karan Nagar looks like appears so depressing and gloomy.”
While the old city, most of which was only indirectly affected by the flood, is limping to normalcy in terms of the business and other routine activities, its inundated areas like Khanyar and Munawarabad smell of usually-stinky Baba Demb lagoon.
For the residents, trying to return to their homes, stink is the second discouraging factor.
“First the water shall recede for us to go home. But at the same time this stink shall go away. It will be difficult for us to return home with this stench around,” Abdul Rasheed of Anzimar Khanyar, who has been living at his relatives home since the flood hit, says.
Most badly-affected residential areas here are still submerged.
At Bemina, for instance, water is still inside the ground floors of the houses in the residential areas, forcing the residents of live on the upper floors or as refugees elsewhere. Almost every second structure in the locality is without the fence, which the water has brought down.
The cars damaged by the water are placed on either side of the roads. Besides making the traffic movement difficult, the cars are a harsh reminder of the nature’s fury Kashmir Valley witnessed. Often, people can be seen dragging their expensive, but damaged, vehicles away by towing them to the load carriers or trucks.
“We cannot even afford to move our cars,” says a local Nasir Ahmad. “Our cars are still under water as the water didn’t recede. Once our homes turn dry, we may be also be able to take our cars for repair by towing them.”