by Masood Hussain
SRINAGAR: With volunteers and officials making to the ill-fated Honzer village on foot Wednesday afternoon, the real situation has emerged about the tragedy that has killed around 27 people. So far seven bodies have been retrieved along with five injured as 19 residents are still missing.
The tragedy did not occur during the wee hours on Wednesday. It took place at around 8:30 am when a lot of youngsters from the village had gone to the cluster that lives on the banks of the stream.
“They were busy moving people out as the surging river currents had started impacting these homes,” Syed Imran, the chairman of the Chenab Valley volunteer group, Ababeel, said. “They had rescued some people and were busy when the cloudburst took place on the banks of a neighbouring stream. The injured who survived the massive upsurge in the river said they did not know what happened to them as they felt being washed away by huge water currents.”
These currents took away almost seven homes and a lot of cowsheds and with them their cattle and the volunteers. Some of these were washed to the shores by the currents with injuries. “So far only five persons who were washed away by the currents reported back. Two of them were taken on a stretcher to the hospital and two more were flown today.”
Ababeel team led by Imran accompanied the first team of officials including the SSP. They drove around 50 km to the nearest spot and then walked on foot for six hours to reach the village. “We could not understand what to do because everybody was mourning,” Imran said. “When we reached the people were offering funeral prayers to the last of the seven persons recovered by the people and we attended the prayer.”
Imran said the people washed away seemingly were dumped under tons of mud that the cloudburst brought from the neighbouring mountain. “It is still dangerously flowing almost 17 ft up than normal,” he said. He said he discussed the issue with the cops and soldiers already in the village and retrieving the bodies requires a lot of work and mechanical help which is impossible given the terrain.
It is Imran’s team that have brought back the first set of photographs and motion pictures that explain the tragedy that hit this remote village. In order to coordinate with the rest of the world, Imran returned to the spot with connectivity so that he could share the details of the tragedy that befell the village. His group, the fastest emerging social group in the region, is connecting with its volunteer network to rebuild the homes that were taken away by the tragedy. “We have started the crowdfunding,” he said.
Shocked at the devastation, Imran said he was dumbfounded for some time after seeing the mess and destruction of the village on Wednesday. It was horrific when the residents started talking about the “walls of water” that “tossed the houses like straw” and disappeared within fractions of a second.
The floods took away almost 21 cow sheds along with the cattle, a key economic source in the belt. Various walking bridges on the river were also taken away by the inflated river.
It was a day after assurances of help flew between Jammu and Delhi, the IAF could finally land a chopper in Sounder hamlet, a few hours walk from Honzer. Bad weather and uninterrupted rains had prevented the IAF from moving to the remote belt on Wednesday.
Officials in Srinagar said two sorties of SDRF and NDRF were despatched from Kishtwar to Sounder along with equipment. The chopper flew back with two critically injured patients from Sounder to Kishtwar.
This will be the first help that flew from the plains to the remote region located between Kishtwar and Anantnag. So far, it was police and a local army unit working with the local residents in hunting missing residents. Given the delay, owing to weather conditions, there is a remote possibility of any missing being retrieved alive. Those recovered were caught in the tons of mud that the water upsurge had flown down from the peaks.
Others who have flown to the area include Divisional Commissioner Jammu, ADGP Jammu, DIG DKR and DC Kishtwar. SP Kishtwar has already reached the spot.
Official sources here said the District Police have established relief camps at Dangadooru and Soundar, the last spot accessible by some road. From there, the relief will be taken by the special teams identified and deployed for this purpose. Most of the officers had driven from Jammu and were camping in Kishtwar since Wednesday evening.
Residents waited for a flight to fly the critically injured but when weather conditions did not improve, they started taking them on stretchers to Sounder, the nearest place accessible by road from Kishtwar. So far, reports from Kishtwar said, four injured have reached the district hospital.
In Jammu, Lt Governor Manoj Sinha’s administration has announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh each for the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the tragic cloudburst in Kishtwar. Kishtwar entire political set-up is on its way to the village.
Meanwhile, the Chenab river is flowing above the danger mark at Akhnoor the danger mark of 35 ft.