Braving the deluge in Kashmir
A month after flood waters battered the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, the magnitude of the tragedy is slowly unfolding. Bigger worries of death and disease still haunt the area in the aftermath of the worst crisis to have hit the region in the last six decades. Murali Krishnan visited the inundated areas in India-administered Kashmir and brought back some pictures and stories of brave women.
Nearly 300 people have been killed and thousands others displaced in the floods- not to mention the massive economic losses. But from the midst of tragedy, heart-wrenching accounts of suffering and survival have emerged. Many women showed exemplary courage to save themselves and even their families when the deadly waters swamped their neighborhoods. Some are fortunate to be alive. Here are the stories of five bravehearts.
Hanifa Begum, a villager from a fisherman’s colony in Baramulla, about 60 kms from Srinagar, the summer capital, is yet to come to terms with the destruction wrought by the floods that wrecked her settlement, but she is lucky to survive. The swirling waters which rose to almost 20 feet (six meters) almost consumed her and her three children. But she showed presence of mind and with the help of a rope managed to pull herself and children to the roof of her house. She now lives in a makeshift tent with her children and an aged mother. “Allah ka shukar hai, hum zinda hain,” she says. (Thank God we are alive.)
Like thousands of others, Abida Bhatt, 20, too managed to reach the rooftop of her house in Baramulla to escape the flood waters and stayed there for almost two days without food and water on September 7. Abida managed to help her ailing grandmother from the ground floor in the nick of time with great difficulty. “The water was rising rapidly and within 15 minutes our first floor was submerged,” she ruefully recounts. It is sheer determination and the will to survive that the family is alive. Her house has been reduced to wood and mud.
Hafiya Khan, 32, still has sleepless nights when she thinks of the sheer volumes of water that inundated Tengpora, a sprawling suburb in Srinagar. Nature’s wrath soon turned into an unprecedented disaster. Her husband was away when the waters entered her home. Hafiya, too, reached out to the terrace. “At that point I was only hoping and praying for a miraculous escape,” she says. Nearly a month after the devastating flood, huge parts of her colony are still submerged in water and little effort has been made by the civic authorities to flush out flood water from their homes. “I still cannot come to terms with the destruction. We have lost everything… our home… everything,” she laments.
As panic gripped her locality in Lal Chowk, the commercial hub, with waters pounding incessantly for five days, Mahirah, 33, a housewife knew she had to escape. Along with her son Safaraz, 12, she climbed to the roof of her house and began hollering for help. As providence would have it, Mahirah soon saw volunteers armed with tyre tubes and boats made of rolled thermoplastic in rescue efforts. With no option, she dived along with her son and was quickly brought to safety. She is convinced she has got a new lease of life. Mahirah has yet to go back to her house to see what is left of it. “From all accounts that I have heard, everything has been destroyed. We are still numbed by the tragedy,” says Mahirah.
When the flood waters swirled chest-high outside her tenement behind the Dal Lake, Fizah Shafi did some quick thinking. Fizah, who runs a shop beside the picturesque lake, immediately pulled out her shikara or wooden taxi boat. For the next two hours she rowed furiously and rescued those stranded on sinking houseboats and brought them to safety. “It was a scary feeling but I am happy that nobody died on the Dal,” she exclaims. With the waters receding, Fizah is still counting her losses. Her shop has been ruined and she is now trying to salvage whatever she can to start life anew.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Date08.10.2014 | 12:26