It was midnight on Saturday when 46-year-old security guard KR Nagaraj took charge of the night shift at the Horticulture Department's Bio Center building in Shivamogga district of Karnataka.
But within minutes of taking over the shift, Nagaraj was forced to camp on the first floor of the building he was guarding. "The water was everywhere, on the roads, in the drains, inside the compound. The water began entering the ground floor as well, so all of us in the building decided to camp on the first floor (the building only has only one storey) and prayed to the gods," recounts Nagaraj.
Almost twelve hours after his shift began, Nagaraj was rescued by Civil Defence personnel coordinating rescue efforts in Shivamogga on Saturday.
"I have never seen the rains to cause the Tunga river to flood our streets like this," he adds, describing that the water level rose to 8-9 feet trapping hundreds of people at their homes overnight.
On Saturday morning, under cloudy skies, the 'unprecedented' rainfall in the district continued to be the talk of the town as residents came to grips with the devastation caused on Friday. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, Shivamogga received 148.2mm of rainfall on Friday as against the normal of 17mm – that’s an excess of 772% on a single day.
"We have not experienced something like this in decades. Everyone is calling each other and asking if their area is flooded," says Manjanna SG, who is volunteering at one of the relief camps opened in Shivamogga.
Fishermen, Civil Defence team lead rescue efforts
While pre-emptive evacuations of people in vulnerable areas of Shivamogga had begun on Thursday, the rescue efforts were intensified after a heavy spell of rain on Friday.
A group of fishermen led by 35-year-old Umesh GR volunteered to help rescue efforts in Vidya Nagar. The fishermen began working at 5am and continued throughout the morning in helping rescue people stranded in their homes.
A 10-member Civil Defence Quick Response Team was drafted in to rescue people by boat and shelter them in relief camps. "The river water is pulling the boats towards the river. We have been doing trips with two boats but we will need more boats, even a boat that is run on diesel to speed up rescue efforts," says Sundar Murthy, a member of the Civil Defence team.
Request for NDRF personnel
The district administration, coming to grips with the gravity of the floods, requested an NDRF team to be stationed in Shivamogga to assist rescue efforts.
"The NDRF is an advanced team capable of faster rescue operations. We realised that with the increase in the rains, we will need a small contingent of the NDRF in Shivamogga," admitted Shivamogga Deputy Commissioner KB Shivkumar. The same was told by Shivamogga City Corporation Commissioner, Charulatha Somal . "NDRF will be required in Hosanagara and Thirthahalli. In Shivamogga, we will turn to them if the rains increase, " she told TNM.
But even though the request was made on Thursday, an NDRF team is yet to arrive in Shivamogga and officials are unsure when or if an NDRF team will assist rescue efforts in the district.
Elsewhere, villages in Hosanagara, Soraba, Thirthahalli and Sagar taluks were flooded after a heavy spell of rain on Friday. In particular, three villages in Soraba - Ballibailu, Thuvilikoppa and Shakunahalli - are marooned. As of 8pm on Saturday, the official death toll in Karnataka is 30, with Shivamogga accounting for two lives lost.
Waterlogging has cut off several link roads leading out of Shivamogga including Agumbe Ghat which connects Shivamogga to Udupi district and other coastal areas.
More than 5,000 people have been evacuated in the district with over 2,000 people camped in relief centres and others relocating to a relative's place. In all, 14 relief centres have been opened but hardly anyone is seen in them during the day. "We are at the relief centres to eat our food and sleep at night but during the day we go to see our house. Even though water has entered our house, we are hoping that the walls are not damaged and the waters recede soon", says Rahman, a resident of Mandakki Batti in Shivamogga.
Much to the relief of everyone in the district, rainfall has reduced in Shivamogga on Saturday.
The red warning for the district issued by the Indian Meteorological Department is set to continue till Sunday morning but there is hope that with the rains receding, residents in the district hope the worst of the calamity is behind them and they can begin rebuilding their lives.