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.
Could a long-delayed wall have stopped the flood?
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.