Abdul Qader, a resident of Hafiz Baba Nagar in Hyderabad's old city, saw a Facebook live from his local corporator on Saturday evening, warning people in his colony to move to higher ground. Qader who lives with his family consisting of his wife, six children and others, lived on the ground floor.
"They had been saying that for three days that water could overflow, so I didn't take it seriously," he says. Around 1.30 am, water started rising in front of his house. Within a matter of 20 mins, it had completely submerged the ground floor. Qader's 81-year-old mother had to be physically lifted to the second floor as before they could salvage anything from their home, the water had even entered the first floor.
His house is nearly 2.5 km from the Balapur lake, locally known as Gurram Cheruvu, whose bund broke on Saturday night, flooding colonies around it with strong currents. Qader estimates a loss of Rs 6 lakh in property.
Videos of the incident on social media showed the strong current of the water, which carried three-wheelers and even cars with it, through the streets of the colony.
"It was just after 1.30 am that the bund broke, and people were alerted through the mosque's speakers at 2 am. The flow of water on the streets was already becoming heavy by evening. As it started to rain, and as the bund broke, the water gushed in," he says.
Around the same time that the bund broke, Syed Shafi, the owner of Deccan Tours and Mobile, a small shop facing the bund, saw the entire force of water rushing into his shop.
"I was standing on top of a building and watching the water rush into my shop. There's nothing left to salvage. I estimate losses worth Rs 50,000. When we were children, we used to fish at the place where the bund is standing. Authorities built the bund and closed three routes through which the water would flow. There is only one outlet now, which is in front of my shop," he narrates.
"When the bund gave in, all the hyacinth that was on top of the water, flowed out and blocked the sewage. Water couldn't go through the sewage and flowed into the colony," he added.
Locals say that in some places, water levels were almost 10-feet high
Syed Shafi's neighbour runs a plastic shop. When TNM visited the spot, the duo were busy scraping nearly 1-inch of sludge that was on the floor of their outlets. From Sunday morning, the duo were using the same overflowing water that flooded their stores, to clean up the place.
Behind Shafi's shop, the first house that is seen, is that of Ashraf Unisa. Her family lives in a rented premises and the rent is Rs 10,000. They say that they couldn't save a single thing because the water came in fast, and without warning.
The building is still under construction and only the ground floor was completed. With water rising beyond the first floor, they had to rush to the roof, where they started to get drenched in the rain. However, their neighbours intervened by lowering a ladder into their roof and rescuing the family.
Ashraf and her sister Azmath Unisa survived on a sewing machine for a living, and that is now gone.
Two streets away, a shopkeeper who sold imported goods was assessing the damage to his establishment. Many of his products are now useless as they were soaked in water.
"Right now, we are still assessing the damage we have suffered. Once we figure out our losses individually, we will discuss as a community and see what we can do," he says.
Locals say that they don't expect the water levels to come down soon. With authorities predicting heavy rainfall over the next few days, residents say that the water is going to flow into Hafiz Baba Nagar as it is a low-lying area. They have no electricity or potable water and everyone has lost their groceries. Volunteers have stepped in to provide relief even as authorities of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) were seemingly absent.
Residents also said that they anticipated the situation. According to the sources, on October 15, there was a protest by Hafiz Baba Nagar residents when the Gurram Cheruvu bund was opened, as locals anticipated floods in case of heavy rains. With Saturday's incident, they say that their worst fears came true.
Lubna Sarwath from Save our Urban Lakes (SOUL) pointed out that blockage of channels in between the water bodies was the main reason for the flooding.
“The channels between the upstream Balapur lake and the Gurram Cheruvu lake, which is adjacent to Hafiz Baba Nagar, are encroached. The Gurram Cheruvu channels that lead to the Musi river are also blocked. The government, instead of clearing these channels to facilitate the free flow of water, is doing nothing.”
She further added that the area had been inundated since the last three days due to rains and pointed out that the government could have used jetting machines and pumped out the water from the colonies before the situation got worse.
She also added that already in the year 2019, Chandrashekar Goud, a Mandal Revenue Office (MRO) had filed a complaint over encroachments on the Gurram Cheruvu lake at the Balapur police station, but there has been no update on the issue.
As TNM walked through the colony, people were seen vacating the area. People were either waiting for some mode of transport to leave, or packing the things they could salvage into bags.
"We have to find another place to stay for rent. With a large family, we won't get rent for lower rates. We have to continue living in places where these kind of incidents will occur. We have no other choice," Ashraf Unisa says.
Meanwhile, Chandrayangutta MLA and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Akbaruddin Owaisi, along with Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar, visited Hafiz Baba Nagar on Sunday morning to take stock of the situation. Authorities have also promised compensation to those affected by the flood.
With inputs from Rajeswari Parasa