Kashmir Flooded: Relief’s Collateral Damage

SAFWAT ZARGAR

SRINAGAR

At Sanat Nagar relief camp, Naseema, 50, is lying supine with her right leg plastered among dozens of flood victim families. When she left her home due to the increasing water level in Tengpora, Batamaloo on Saturday night, she was completely fine.

While camping under a makeshift tent on Srinagar-Muzzaffarbad highway with scores of families around; wailing, shouting and pleading restlessly for help, Naseema managed her reunion with her family of eleven members.

“I thought this was the worst that could happen to us,” Naseema says, while adjusting her pillow to face me. “I was wrong.”

After the night was over, an army helicopter hovering above early morning, neared down the highway and began dropping boxes of packed dal and water-bottles. Unaware about what was happening few meters away, a heavy rectangular object penetrated the tarpaulin-roof of Naseema’s on-road home.

“It fell on my right leg and for half an hour I couldn’t feel my leg,” she says. “I felt as if my leg was amputated.”

With no hospital functional in the city, Naseema was shifted to Barzulla medical camp for primary treatment. A group of doctors camped in a canopy applied some balm on her right leg and covered it with crepe bandage.

“I was in so much pain that even my whole family’s condition worsened,” Naseema says, whose leg was finally plastered at Ahmad hospital on Nowgam Bye-pass.

Limping and shouldered by women of her neighbourhood, she reached the community centre of Sanat Nagar on Monday morning when the Jehlum overflow had snaked almost the entire city.

Many flood survivors said the relief being air-dropped landed over them. Thirty-five year old Mehbooba of Rajbagh, who was trapped on Jawahar Nagar Bund, fainted, when a bag of flour and some medicines dropped by an army helicopter fell on her head. She regained her consciousness after a while when a group of people present there removed her to the other side of the
road.

Shabir Ahmad, suffered injuries on head when a bag full of water bottles dropped from an army chopper, fell on him.

There was strong opposition to the idea of air dropping relief to the marooned population by police saying the people being accessible by boat would be a better alternative. But the concerns were overruled by the two officers who are managing the show for the state government from Srinagar’s technical airport. However, from Wednesday evening they permitted part of the relief be transported to the affected population. By Thursday evening eight truckloads of relief was sent to the affected populations in south of Srinagar through police, official sources said.

Initially the choppers were used to rescue people trapped in various residential areas. After reports that the massive rotor movement was triggered huge water currents disrupting the movement of rescue boats around and impacting the water logged houses, their use was reportedly scaled down.

Eighteen year-old Kainaat from Jawahar Nagar who was trapped in her house for six days, suffered a long gash on her foot when a window-glass cracked into splinters, due to the helicopter’s loud droning sound. “I tried to save my young cousin but the glass broke down and it cut my foot,” she says.

Back at Sanat Nagar relief camp, Naseema awaits her return home where the water had rose up to two-stories. She has sent her two sons to assess the water level. “I am waiting for them. My home is ruined but I still want to have a look at it,” Naseema says, as tears form a line down her face.“I will be cured there.”

Authorities in Delhi said the security agencies mostly the army, IAF and the NDRF have so far rescued more than 130 thousand people from submerged areas across J&K. Though the rescue operations were scaled down in south of Srinagar after rescuing most of the trapped population, there are many thousand people reportedly still trapped inside in flood’s worst victim belt in Srinagar – the Bemina.

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