Hopes Fade As Rescuers Fail To Trace Missing People In Dacchan

SRINAGAR: With every passing day, the hope of retrieving the 19 missing residents of Honzer village in remote Dacchan is diminishing. The July 28, cloudburst brought in tons of the soil with walls of water that decimated a cluster of the village houses. Nobody knows if they are buried under the debris or were washed away by the water currents.

A rescue operation involving the army and the residents was in progress on July 28, the day the tragedy struck. They have located a body in this frighteningly flowing river.

“We do not see any chance to get the dead bodies of missing people,” an Ababeel volunteer, who just returned from the village, said.  Ababeel is a Chenab Valley NGO that was the first to reach the village with some relief on the very first day along with the cops from Kishtwar.

So far, seven bodies were retrieved and laid to rest – five of them recovered on the very first day, as the water currents had washed them towards the stream shores. Most of the 17 injured actually walked home after managing to survive, somehow. Four of them are admitted to the Kishtwar hospital. As many as 17 are still missing.

The village, witnesses said is witnessing a huge activity. People from the police, the army and the volunteer groups like Ababeel are trying to help the residents find the dead and rehabilitate the survivors.

Even managing relief is difficult because it involves managing a hilly terrain using mules and horses.

“The road is very rough. From the last point that is accessible by road, it takes five hours to reach the village,” the volunteer said. In the first phase of relief, Ababeel delivered blankets and other food items. “We have 15 volunteers who are carrying the relief packages by foot there.”

This photograph shows the soldiers and the civilians pulling the rope to help the rescuing individuals catch hold of the dead body in this river on July 28. Almost 26 residents were washed away by a flash flood caused by a cloudburst in Honzer village of remote Dacchan on that morning.

In the second phase, Kashmir based relief and voluntary groups like Athrout, Kashmir Welfare Trust and Syedus Sadat Foundation managed to take some relief material and handed it over to the Ababeel volunteers at the Senthon top for onward transportation and distribution. It is this part that Ababeel said is proving a challenge.

Syedus Sadaat Foundation that operates from Anantnag said it handed over 120 roofing sheets,m 75 12-mm plyboard sheets, solar lights and food kits for the affected village to the Ababeel at Senthen Top.

“In the second phase we pledged to deliver tin sheets, plywood and other construction material to rebuild the devastated homes so that the survivors will start resuming some sort of life,” the volunteer said. “But even the horses are failing to deliver it.” Part of the hill track is narrow at places and carriage of items like tin sheets is becoming difficult.

The group has now requested the official machinery to help them fly the load from the last point accessible by road, Sounder, to Honzer. The volunteer said they have been asked to formally make a request and detail the load and the items requiring transportation by helicopter.

A successful rescue operation on July 28. Locals with the help of the army succeeded in pulling out a dead body from the river. The flash flood caused by the cloudburst decimated Honzer village of Dacchan and washed away 26 villagers on July 28, 2021.

Even this is a problem. “How can we weigh the objects there? We do not carry any weight machines. We can tell the quantity not weight,” he said

Ababeel volunteer said that two camps are working in the village, one each run by the army and the Jammu and Kashmir Police. The police have started a community kitchen to provide meals to the affected population. The official machinery has to cater to the requirements of the personnel from SDRF and NDRF, which are in the village since July 30, when IAF could successfully fly to Sounder.

Remains of a home: Ababeel volunteers trying to locate a human corpse from the remains of a devastated home sealed by mud. Picture: Ababeel

Some relief is also moving from the Jammu region. BJP, according to reports appearing in the media, has sent a truckload of commodities. It was not immediately known if it has reached the ill-fated village.

On day one (July 30), when IAF successfully managed to fly to the area, it flew eight sorties transferring relief load of 2,250 kg, 44 NDRF and SDRF personnel, four medical assistants as two patients who were in critical condition were flown to Kishtwar. Intermittently, the IAF is flying to Sounder but no detail is available about its operations in the subsequent days.

Police sources have identified the missing residents as Saja Begum, 60, wife of Ghulam Mohiuddin; Khursheed Ahmed, 31, son of Mohammad Iqbal; Fida Hussain, 26, son of Mohammad Ramzan; Mohammad Sharif, 40, son of Ghulam Rasool; Amina Tabassum, 22, daughter Mohammad Iqbal; Mata Begum, 45, wife of Lala Tantray; Ghulam Mohammad, 70, son of Ghulam Rasool; Fazal Hussain, 18, son of Rustam Ali Chopan; Tariq Hussain,  50, son of Nazir Ahmed; Zarina Begum, 40, wife of Tariq Hussain; Mata Begum, 45, wife of Ghulam Rasool; Fatima Begum, 56, wife of Ghulam Ahmed; Bashir Ahmed, 45, son of Rustam Ali; Begum, 44, wife of Abdul Rehman; Sharifa Begum, 38, wife of Ghulam Mohd; Shakir Hussain, 22, son of Ghulam Ahmed; Ghulam Ahmed,65, son of Abdul Aziz; Zubaida Bano, 25, daughter of Ghulam Ahmed and Khalid, son of Haji Abdul Gani.

Funeral prayers being offered to one of the seven residential of Honzar Dacchan who was killed in a cloudburst on July 28, 2021. Picture by Ababeel

Officials in the Disaster Management Authority in Srinagar confirmed that no dead or alive person was retrieved in the last few days indicating that they were washed away by the flood. They said the District administration in Kishtwar said the rescue is still on, the affected families have been given the tents for living as the exgratia relief announced by the government is being processed.

Saifullah Bashir contributed to this report

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