Heroes of Jammu Kashmir: They rolled up their sleeves as floods ravaged the region

Heroes of Jammu Kashmir: They rolled up their sleeves as floods ravaged the region
Heroes of Jammu Kashmir: They rolled up their sleeves as floods ravaged the region
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Adnan Bhat| The News Minute| Srinagar| September 19, 2014| 8.00 am IST

When flood waters first started breaching into residential areas in flood hit Kashmir valley almost a fortnight ago, 28-year-old Tariq Ali was sure that he and his nine-month pregnant wife had no reason to worry. But they had no idea about what was to follow.

Within no-time the first floor of their two storey house in Srinagar city was completely submerged forcing him and his family to take refuge on the second floor, with nowhere to go.

“As the water kept rising I saw two houses in the neighbourhood collapse and I thought to myself we’ll all die here. My mother and wife had started crying but I kept telling them we’ll make it through” says Ali, who runs a hotel “There were no flood warnings sounded by the government.”

Flood hit families que-up to receive food and drinking water at Bemina, Srinagar

After waiting hours for help, Ali decided to take matters in his own hands in a last ditch effort to save his family. He made a make-shift boat with whatever left he could find in the house and sailed to a safer ground, with only hope of making it there.

Families separated during floods finally meet at a relief camp

Ali, somehow managed to get his family to safety but he then decided to head back to the neighborhood to save others trapped on roof-tops. He rescued 20 people.

“If the government had sounded a flood alert, at least few hours before the floods hit the area many lives could have been saved,” Ali says, with an angry look on his face.

Volunteers at a relief camps take a break after a hard days work

From day one of the crisis, even before the army was brought to carry out relief and rescue operations; students, mohalla leaders and common people from all-walks of life came forward to help move the people struck in floods to safer locations, using makeshift rescue boat and other equipments. The Omar Abdullah led state government has been unable to provide any major relief, causing anger among the people.

Over 200 people have died so far and around 600,000 have been forced to flee from their homes for safety due to the massive floods that wreaked havoc across the valley and have submerged much of the region. Thousands are now living in makeshift tents and community relief camps set-up by self-help groups, while the state administration continues to remain clueless about what to do.

Women from affected families living in tents on a roadside wash dishes

Zeeshan Pandit, who till a week ago ran a school in Baghat Barzulla area of Srinagar, has now turned the building into a relief center for flood victims, providing them food and medicines, as most of the hospitals in Srinagar continue to remain inundated.

“No one from the state government has come forward to take charge of the situation. We have been helping people from day one, but there is still a lot that needs to be done,” says Zeeshan. “We have received help from people all over India, who have been generously donating medicines, food essentials and other items to help flood victims.”

Zeeshan and dozens of other volunteers have setup 17 camps in the valley to reach out to as many flood victims as possible. They face hurdles everyday to carry relief operations as some parts of the valley continue to remain inaccessible, but still remain invigorated.

Sahil, 14, the youngest member of the group, who has been carrying medicines to affected families in his school bag says, “I’m happy to help the people and I’ll continue to do so as long as they need me.”

Sahil assembles medicines at a relief to be taken to flood affected families

All Photos by Muhabit ul Haq

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