Touch down in Srinagar after the worst floods in living memory

تم النشر: 24 سبتمبر 2014 19:14 CET

By Neeti Sharma, Indian Red Cross Society


It is late in the evening when we touch down at the airport in Srinagar. As part of a Red Cross assessment team, I’m travelling in an Indian Air Force (IAF) plane that carries eight of the Red Cross Water purification machines. In the flood-affected Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, every piece of relief is needed, especially clean water.

The Indian Red Cross Society has been on the ground since the first hours of the disaster with their trained First Medical Responders (FMR) who have assisted and evacuated more than 2,500 people from the floodwaters. Most of the members of the Red Cross State Branch in Srinagar have been personally affected. They have had to leave their own families stranded on the top storeys of houses or taking refuge in camps set up for the evacuees. Even the Red Cross office has been inundated although the water level is now receding.

Every Medical Responder has a story to tell. Raja Muneeb’s 10-day-old daughter and wife were admitted to a Children’s Hospital in the city but shortly after, water started gushing in. Acting as team leader, with volunteers from the community, Raja managed to evacuate the children and their relatives from the premises and move them to higher ground. Female Medical Responders also played their role and even assisted in two deliveries while evacuation process was ongoing in another affected area.

“There were many people who offered us money and other valuables in return for saving their lives, we told them this is our humanitarian cause,” said Inam Un Nabi, the Red Cross National Disaster Response Team member from the State.

Affan Yesvi, coordinator of the First Medical Responders said: “This is what the training prepared us for, yet every disaster and calamity is, to a certain extent unpredictable. It requires nerves of steel to be able to react swiftly and help.”

Throughout the city of Srinagar you can see white Red Cross tents that have been pitched to serve as short term shelter to people in transit around the airport and at various other places where the homes of thousands of people have been washed away. Other relief items. such as blankets, tarpaulin sheets, kitchen sets, and solar lanterns, have been provided by the Indian Red Cross along with its partners, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Eight water purification units are now installed at Budgaom and Anantnag districts and in other community camps around Srinagar where they are pumping out 150,000 litres of purified water every day.

“Winter is approaching and after more than two weeks of being immersed in stagnant water, the foundations of homes and buildings are weakened. Many are reportedly collapsing and this will mean a massive population that will have nowhere to go for shelter,” says Roma Wani, General Secretary of the Indian Red Cross Society in Jammu and Kashmir. “In such circumstances we have to make sure that the short and long terms needs in the form of shelter, clothing and essential supplies will be provided for.”

Since early September the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir has suffered severe floods caused by torrential monsoon rains. The floods are reportedly the worst in more than half a century. Large areas of southern Kashmir and the capital Srinagar were submerged and hundreds of thousands of people were marooned in their homes.