Kashmir Flood Update by Gowhar Geelani: Day 10

Republished from Gowhar Geelani’s facebook

Like Wednesday, I covered a distance of around 15-20 Kms on Thursday (September 11) from Sanat Nagar to Kursoo Rajbagh alongside the Bund by foot to get some idea of the actual magnitude of the flood crisis in worst affected areas like Solina Payeen, Jawahar Nagar, Gogji Bagh, Rajbagh C, Mehjoor Bridge and Kursoo, etc.

I mustered some courage to capture images of the havoc caused by the floods. Most residential buildings in all these areas are still waterlogged.

At Gogji Bagh on the Bund side I saw an old couple, probably in their late 70s, sitting anxiously on their veranda.

I gathered some courage to use the broken bricks of a nearby wall and roof of another house as footrest and then called out loud to them, “do you want to come out, need anything, water, etc?”

Kashmir Flood Fury
One floor of the buildings is still submerged

They responded quickly and said, “Yes, we need water bottles, five-six-eight.” I got down from the wall I had climbed upon to stop two relief distributing vehicles carrying water and other supplies. I narrated to them the old couple’s ordeal and the urgent need for water and food. They gave me around 10-15 bottles of packaged drinking water.

I climbed the submerged wall again, got to another roof of the house close by. Some young men came along who gathered some more courage to get to another rooftop of another building.

My cricketing skills came to rescue. I used my throwing arm to pass on the water bottles to them, one by one. They had safe pair of hands. They caught all. And then threw bottles to the old couple.

As we were about to leave from the place, we heard more cries for help and water. We adopted the same technique to make water available to next three houses in which there was a Sikh family, probably a Kashmir Pandit one too, and a Muslim family with kids.

They were reluctant to come out and had taken refuge in their homes for the past 10 days and are perhaps hoping for water levels to recede. How wise their decision is, I don’t know.

The damage to properties is colossal and inexplicable. Most houses are partially or completely submerged. And damaged, too.

Relief Operations: Local Bait-ul-Maal and Masjid committees at Solina Payeen, Barzulla, Baghat, Sanat Nagar, Kralpora, Machoo, Wathura and Chadoora are distributing relief material and medicines on the Bund side, bridges and road dividers. Relief material and medicine is also coming from areas like Yusmarg and Shopian.

Evacuated people have been kept in a shopping complex at Rambagh, marriage hall of Baghat, MET school Baghat, Guruduwara near Baghat chowk, and government buildings, etc. Some have taken shelter on the bridges of Barzulla, road dividers near Tengpora and Sanat Nagar, etc.

Rescue Operations: On fifth straight day four helicopters are flying in the flood-hit areas of Gogji Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Rajbagh, Kursoo, Solina etc to rescue people and airdrop food items sent from the Indian state of Gujarat.

Local Kashmiri boatmen are displaying tremendous courage and spirits to rescue many trapped families. Young people are also using innovative methods to rescue women, children and old people.

Men belonging to India’s National Disaster Response Force and J&K Light Infantry can also be seen providing boats and other possible help to the locals to trace their loved ones.

Locals have noted down names of some 160 odd rescued people and pasted that information in Urdu on the walls near the Bund.

Problems: The magnitude of the flood crisis is huge and sadly the response from the state government and Indian government has been too slow and inadequate. There are fears that the Indian government may have blocked all lines of communication with an aim to avoid global intervention and embarrassment thereof.

There is absence of any organized help and information centres. No information and enquiry camps are present in the area so that the people could locate their missed family members, friends and relatives. There is no list of rescued people being provided in a well thought-out manner.

No traffic cops can be seen on the roads. Any government facility in shape of medical aid and transportation is also absent. It also appears that no serious attempt is being made to restore all lines of communication— mobile phone connectivity, internet, etc— to help people trace the missed ones.

Kashmiris living outside Kashmir— in many parts of India and outside India—are worried and haven’t been able to establish any kind of contact with their family members. Again, it appears, there is no attempt being made to address their anxiety in near future in some way.

Road Connectivity: From Budgam to Solina (from Chadoora, Wathura, Machoo, Kralpora, Sanat Nagar, Baghat, Hyderpora, Barzulla, Rambagh, Solina) the road connectivity is fine. There is still no reasonable access to city centre Lal Chowk and downtown areas from Rambagh.