Floods and landslides create new vulnerabilities in communities across Jammu and Kashmir

Publicado: 16 septiembre 2014 11:05 CET

By Maude Froberg, IFRC

September 5th is a date that people in the village of Saddal in India’s Jammu and Kashmir State, will never forget. The rains were heavy and went on for days. Then, all of sudden a massive landslide rolled down the hill. It crushed and smashed everything in its path. Some 30 houses were buried together with their occupants who stood no chance of escaping. 

This tragedy is one of many from this flood ravaged state.

I’m in Jammu as part of a Red Cross Movement Joint Assessment Team. We are tasked to assess how the right aid will reach the right people at the right time. In disasters there are always those who are more vulnerable than others. 

All of a sudden our Landcruiser is forced to stop. Another landslide has come down the narrow road. This time we are lucky, heaps of muds have slid up against a house, serving as a levee. I get out of the car to assess the damage. The road is slippery and from the rooftop people are watching as a backhoe loader tackles the task of clearing the accumulation of mud. Only then can we pass. 

Further up the hill, a tent of black plastic sheeting is billowing in the wind. It’s the makeshift home of Modsood Begum, her husband and their five children. A steep path leads up to their kacha house, a building made out of stones and clay; a place they called home for 25 years. Due to the heavy rains, the wooden roof is broken in several places and a wall has collapsed.

“I don’t feel safe having the children sleeping in the tent. But how can we afford to repair the house?” says Modsood Begum. She opens the door to the tiny kitchen that used to smell of freshly cooked meals. Now the room is reeking of stagnant water and the rawness of mud.  

Her uphill neighbors, also affected, have sought temporary shelter in the high school of the village Thanna Mudin. 

“The rains were the worst I’ve ever seen during my lifetime. Several house were swept away in our village,” says Attullah Khan, 60-year-old, who, like others, refused to leave his cattle behind. 

Now he is feeding the brown-spotted cow with tree branches and grass under the chalkboards in the passage outside the classrooms. Inside, some 85 people are squeezed in with their belongings.

Mr. R.C. Puri, regional secretary of the Indian Red Cross Jammu branch, comes forward and listens carefully as Atullah Khan and the other villagers express their immediate needs: blankets, tents, kitchen utensils and tarpaulins. 

The Jammu branch quickly handed over some 100 tents to the district authority during the first days of the disaster. As more affected areas are reached, the scale and scope of this disaster unfolds the needs will increase. 

Approximately 8,000 families in ten districts of Jammu have lost their homes and possessions. In the worst affected district of Poonch, entire houses can be seen floating in the water. 

One of the main challenges is time. Winter is just around the corner and although the floods may be receding by the day, people here remain highly vulnerable.