Floods: A Year Later
For a moment, Ahmad (40) from the Chattabal locality of Srinagar thought everything was lost. He saw his two children and wife crying, struggling in the water and drowning when the boat, in which they were being rescued during the floods last year, hit something and capsized.
The fate, however, had something else in store for them. Another boat which was rowing nearby rushed and saved the family.
Ahmad (last name used) is haunted by the memory of the floods and has not returned home at Chattabal since the floods. He hears the cries of his wife and children in his dreams, which have turned into nightmares. He is scared of water and the river and gets angry at the slightest provocation. Ahmad has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the first week of September last year, a rare climatic phenomenon raged high in the sky over Kashmir and soon turned Srinagar into a desolate city with stories of pain, loss and resilience.
Three storms rising from the seas of the Mediterranean, Arabian and the Bay of Bengal stopped over Kashmir due to the high pressure created east of the Valley that prevented them from moving further, causing a catastrophe that few men saw coming.
At 9 am on September 3, 2014, the Jhelum was flowing at 9.60 feet at Sangam in south Kashmir, 14 feet from the danger level. In the week ending September 3, 2014, J&Kreceived 55 per cent of excess rainfall. The situation worsened between September 3 and 6.
The results were devastating and unfolded a calamity.
At 12 am on September 4, the Jhelum crossed the danger mark of 19 feet at Srinagar’s Ram Munshi Bagh. Eighteen hours later, the state government issued a grim bulletin announcing that the river had crossed the 30-foot mark at Sangam, seven feet above the danger level and touched 21.8-foot mark in Srinagar.
The enormity of the calamity, however, was still unfolding as the mighty sea of water was yet to crash into Srinagar, the seat of the government. It did so on the night of September 6, when the city of million people was sleeping.
Within hours it swept away the government’s machinery, enslaved thousands of residents with limited stocks in the upper stories of their houses and led to an exodus of hundreds of families.
The deluge, which lasted through most of September, affected 22 lakh people in nearly 300 residential locations in south, central and north Kashmir.
When the water finally receded from Srinagar after several weeks and revealed the extent of damage, many localities such as Raj Bagh looked like bombed ghostly cities with houses lying deserted amid mounds of rubble.
During the days of deluge and its aftermath, volunteers arranged medicine, food and water, set up medical camps and community kitchens and did what the vanished government had failed to do.
As the calamity tested Kashmir’s resilience, young men and women volunteered for a face-off with the flood’s fury. They swam through the snow-cold floodwater to save lives and innovated rafts out of anything that could float to get the essentials to stranded.
The deluge turned Srinagarinto a city of rubble and dust. Official figures say 68,000 tonnes of rubble was removed from Srinagar after the floods.
Arshad Hussain, a city-based psychiatrist, said young men who had lost their businesses and were caught in debt and loans had started trickling for counselling in recent months. “In spite of what happened, most of the community showed tremendous resilience,” said Hussain. “Whosoever went into this black hole of trauma is because of the lack of rehabilitation.
”The psychiatrist said the patients he had attended to in the initial months after the floods were directly impacted by the deluge — those who had lost their family members, homes, a couple ‘who had drowned but survived’ and Ahmad, who saw his wife and children struggling in the floodwater.
“He (Ahmad) is stuck there…his dreams have turned into nightmares where he only hears cries of his wife and kids,” the doctor said.