Virje, Gotegali and Hattogi are quaint little villages located on either side of the Kadra Dam. On the morning of August 6, the residents these villages located along the Kali River in Uttara Kannada district, say they were caught unawares when the gates of the Kadra Dam were thrown open.
The heavy rainfall had filled the reservoir to its brim, and the officials had no choice but to open the dam gates and let the water flow. "Generally, when the dam gates are open, the officials inform us in advance. But this time, we did not receive any information," says Uttara Uthankhot, a 53-year-old resident of Virje, who had been lodged at the Ujwala relief camp in Karwar.
Residents of these villages claim that the officials of the Kadra Dam came to their homes on August 6 and informed them that they had to keep all their electronic appliances at a higher level or shift them to homes located uphill as water reaching up to 2 ft would hit their homes. However, as heavy rains continued to lash various parts of Karnataka and the water from the Kadra Dam had to be released, residents say officials failed to inform them about the seriousness of the situation.
"My son Vishal and I shifted our small refrigerator to our neighbour's home which is located higher up. This is quite normal for us and we did not think much of it," says Asha Vasanth Kalgutkar, a resident of Hattogi.
Asha says that the officials had initially opened only four gates on August 6. However, just a day later, 10 gates of the dam were opened up and the residents of Virje, Gotegali and Hattogi say the officials had not issued a flood alert.
"On Wednesday (August 7), the officials came and informed us that we had 15 minutes to pack up and leave as the dam gates were about to open. We were all lost. People were panicking. Then within minutes the officials were saying that we had to get into buses that are already on the main road waiting for us. Our home is a little away from the reservoir. But those who were living closer were already scared as the water had reached their homes," says Pushpa Jagannath Koth, an 83-year old resident of Gotegali.
Boats were deployed to rescue those whose homes were flooded and hundreds of residents were transported in 40 buses to the Ujwala relief camp.
"We were not given enough warning or time to pack our belongings. Our houses and cattle have now been submerged in water. Our cattle have drowned. We are all poor people. These officials knwe there was a flood alert and they did not tell us anything," Pushpa laments.
Refuting the claims of the victims, Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada district says that the administration and the Kadra Dam officials had issued a flood warning on August 6 itself.
"There were autos with loudspeakers that went around shouting messages in every village. The media was informed at a press conference. It was broadcast everywhere. We went according to protocol," DC Harish Kumar told TNM.
However, the residents alleged that no message was delivered by any auto in their village.
"See, I earn Rs 6,000 per month and my two sons are working in Goa as labourers. We don't have a TV at home. We barely have money to eat and survive. Why should we lie about not knowing. Don't you think we would have packed up and left if we knew?" questions 74-year-old Radhika Dadhukota, a resident of Galigote village.
The flood victims are now hoping that the government would help them with funds to construct new homes. "If not construct the homes, they should at least help us obtain some stability once the floods are over. They were negligent and we have to pay for it now?" Radhika adds.