SRINAGAR: “Had authorities warned us on time, we may have been able to save some of our belongings and escaped on time. But we were kept in the dark,” said Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, who lost his home to devastating September floods.
A resident of Jawahar Nagar here, Bhat was living with his wife and two daughters in an old house which he had recently purchased from his in-laws.
On the evening of Saturday (September 6), while returning from the fly-over construction site, where he works, Bhat heard his friends and neighbours talk about the possibility of floods in Srinagar. He said he went straight to the Raj Bagh police station to confirm about the situation.
“There were already many anxious civilians like me in the police station wanting to know if there was a possibility of flood in our area and if we needed to evacuate. The police officials assured us there was no need to panic and that the people talking about possibility of floods are idiots. They said people are just creating the panic,” Bhat told Kashmir Reader. “They said there is no possibility of flood at all.”
Trusting the police’s word, Bhat didn’t relocate his belongings and stayed at home with his family. As the night went on and announcements were made in the local mosques for people to shift to top floors, Bhat remained unconcerned, obviously because of assurances from the police.
As the night passed and Bhat came out of his house to check the situation, water had already submerged the street he lives in. Before he could return home and evacuate his family, water started rushing in from three sides.
“I took my family and we started walking towards the bund. We intended to escape after reaching the bund, but the flow of water in the street was too heavy for us to walk. We feared that we would be swept away,” he said.
“Somehow we managed to walk up to the multistorey house of our neighbour. Within no time after we took refuge in the house, everything around us was submerged. There were about 50 people already inside the house and we were watching our houses turning into rubble,” he said.
The house Bhat was staying in was located next to his own house. It was impossible for him to know what had happened to his old house which was susceptible to collapse. And he kept asking his relative staying in a house in front of his about the updates.
“He was taking refuge in the house right in front of my house. We could talk through the windows, and I kept on asking him every now and then about my home,” Bhat said.
“He kept me updated how water had submerged the lower floors of the house. And then late in the evening on Sunday, he said ‘your house has collapsed’,” he added.
For three days, Bhat and his family survived on the food provided by his neighbour. But he couldn’t leave the shelter to escape to safety or to look at the devastation of his house.
“Army boats used to pass through the area, and each boat used to be packed with 6 or 7 army or NDRF men. We tried to take their help, but every time they refused to save us, saying they wanted to save people who were crying,” he said. “Finally, after water started to recede, I managed to get a private boat to take my family to a relief camp near Solina. There, army choppers used to bring us food packets like ready-to-use biryani or korma at the camp too. But the food was expired.”
Bhat returned home two weeks after the flood when major part of his locality had dried up, only to find his belongings buried under the rubble of his house. And he was forced to take refuge with his family in the house of in-laws.
“I can’t dare open the door of my house fearing its few standing walls may collapse over me. Everything I owned is buried under the rubble and I don’t even have insurance cover for anything,” he said.