Floods
Residents of Ramalingeswara Nagar and Rani Gari Thota say that they could not shift to the relief camps set up in Vijayawada, as they had to guard their belongings at home.

A few men and women wade through the muddy waters at the far end of Neelaveni road in Ramalingeswaranagar in Vijayawada on Tuesday morning. A man standing at a distance on the dry ground shouts, half-joking, “Can you check if my house is there or gone?” As the crowd gathered around him sniggers, Saritha, one of his neighbours, says, “We are tired of being miserable for four days. There’s nothing left to do now but laugh.”

Saritha and her family, along with her neighbours, are among the many people who refused to go to the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC)’s flood relief camps after their homes were inundated by the Krishna waters released from the Prakasam barrage on August 16. “We had to stay back to guard our things. The officials asked us to bring them along, but by then the water had entered our homes and it was impossible to carry anything,” says Suryanarayana, a mechanic who lives on the same street.

A flooded street in Ramalingeswara Nagar 
 
Suryanarayana and many others like him have been staying at the homes of their acquaintances on higher ground so that they can keep an eye on their belongings in case of a theft. 

Could a long-delayed wall have stopped the flood?
 
Beyond the flooded colony, stands a tall structure, called the retaining wall, which the residents of Ramalingeswara Nagar say was built in their neighbourhood about a year ago. The wall is said to have been proposed in 2009, which was the last time that the city was flooded this severely. So far, it has been completed only partially, with a long stretch from Ramalingeswaranagar, continuing up to Rani Gari Thota and beyond, yet to be completed. 

“The wall was approved way back when Rosaiah was Chief Minister. We have made repeated demands to build the wall, but the Naidu government started the work only recently,” says Nagamani, a resident of Rani Gari Thota.
 
Many residents of Rani Gari Thota felt that the floods could’ve been controlled if the wall had been completed, but it was stopped midway citing lack of funds, they said. 
 
Saritha and her husband Raju also say that leaving the wall incomplete, and a few flaws in construction in the completed wall has led to flooding in Ramalingeswara Nagar. 
 
Saritha with her belongings damaged in the floods 
 
'We weren’t warned in time' 

Saritha and her neighbour, Sarveswara Rao, recall the way the flood alert was issued back in 2009. “The officials came by and alerted us on mics. They assisted elderly people. They told us the possible extent of damage, gave us enough time to pack our things and safeguard them. This time, no one came and warned us. We barely managed to grab some papers and ran into the street,” Saritha says.
 
She adds that they had also been less anxious this time because they thought the retaining wall would prevent flooding. 

Saritha’s husband Raju says he sat on the roof during the day for two days, when the water was still knee-deep, to safeguard their possessions. Sarveswara Rao and his wife Ratnamanikyam had to stay in their neighbour’s house on a higher level, leaving their dog, Puppy, on their roof. The families have now left their grains, clothes, mattresses and other objects out to dry. 
 

 
The aftermath 

Suryanarayana says that a few snakes have been spotted in the water when people have waded inwards to check on their houses. Sarveswara Rao says he hasn’t slept properly in four days because of mosquitoes. Many of the people affected by the floods earn daily wages. The material losses from the floods, apart from the loss of income, has hurt their financial condition badly.
 
“My husband is losing out on at least Rs 450 each day. We are also going to have to replace the ruined groceries now,” says Saritha. 

“The Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) is only providing food and healthcare at the relief camps. What about us? We can’t afford to leave our things here. We are at a higher risk of diseases here. We are having to buy food from hotels. They should be providing relief to us here,” says Suryanarayana. 
 

Retaining wall at the end of Neelaveni road 
 
While the residents of Rani Gari Thota were being provided with food in their locality by various political parties, the people of Ramalingeswara Nagar say nobody has provided them with any relief so far.  

Saritha and Raju point at a few pits on their street. “They had dug up the ground to fix the drainage system a few months back. They still haven’t covered it. Now after the flooding, it’s dangerous to even walk on the roads,” she says. 

While the residents of Ramalingeswara Nagar are hopeful that the water will recede completely in a couple of days, the people of Rani Gari Thota are not so optimistic.
 
Residents of Rani Gari Thota recovering their belongings 
 
Krishnaveni, who returned from the relief camp in Indira Gandhi Stadium only this morning, says she has heard rumours about another 6 lakh cusecs of water being released from the barrage, which has left her anxious. She sits in her neighbour's house on higher ground, washing utensils with water from a hand pump.
 
“If we can pack all our things carefully and keep them on the roof, maybe this time we can salvage them,” she says.