2010 Flash Flood: A disaster and its aftermath

By Hajira Bano Balkhang Leh, Aug 20, 2013
Leh :
People tend to forget bad experiences. But I believe we must remember them for they make us cherish and value the better ones. Personally we all have some bad experiences or the other but there is one mishap that has grabbed our collective consciousness, for we Ladakhis had not seen such a disaster in our living memory.
I am talking about the cloudburst that occurred exactly three years ago. A sudden change of weather and dark clouds coupled with some fiery winds  brought back the memories of the event that occurred three years ago in just about the same time of the year. I will relive those events.

I was oblivious to the disasters and natural calamities until I experienced it myself on that fateful night. It was the night of 5th August 2010. The cascading rains with deafening sound of lightning and thunder were frightening.

Some people say that natural disasters are a test for the faithful and punishment for those who disobey the Almighty. I do not know which category I belonged and for the first time in my life I was forced to contemplate and weigh my sins. May be it was His way of reminding me of my misdeeds. Yes it is a little too philosophical to say that, but difficult times make us approach life with serious thoughts. Don’t they?

It was a dark night and the incessant rain made it look darker. After having dinner we all went to bed. We could not close our eyes even for a second because of the sheer volume of thundering and sudden down pouring of incessant rain.

The clock struck 11. The deserted and water washed roads were suddenly full of shouts and screams coming from all the directions. I looked outside the window and found many people gathered on the road.  My father who had been out to know what was going on came rushing back and told us that a terrible flood after washing away many people and properties in the neighbouring areas is headed towards our area so we all including our neighbour have to move to safer places quickly.

Never in my life had I thought that I would be forced to leave my house as refugees. My family took shelter in a local mosque with other families. For the first time in my life I saw the real fear in the eyes of my father; the fear of losing his entire family in front of his eyes while being rendered to a mere helpless spectator. It was a moment of realisation for me too for I understood the real value of family that, many of us, knowingly or unknowingly take for granted most of the time.

It was hardly 50 to 100 metres from my home. The huge concrete buildings, the shops and complexes were all razed down like pack of cards by the furious waters. People were taking out the bodies one after another from under the debris. Seeing this death and destruction my eyes were flooded with tears. Some bodies decomposed, some with the skins peeled off. It was impossible to recognise who they were? Ironically machines normally used for constructing buildings were now being put to different use; digging out dead.
We were still unaware that who is dead and who is safe. We were not able to talk to our relatives as the phone lines were all dead. Everyone was in shock and panic ran all around.

I went to the place where the bodies were kept. Barely had I seen two bodies, I could not see more. My courage and tears in my eyes gave away. What would I have done if I saw someone I recognised and worst still, someone I loved? Many lost their entire family. I thought how will these people come out of the shock of losing the persons who are most close to their heart.

Within no time the beautiful town of ours was turned into rubble. Within seconds the lives of many people changed.

Earlier when I would hear that people became homeless because of floods, it would be merely news for me, but now it is a realisation; an imprint on mind that cannot be washed.

Before this incident I used to get sad at even trivial things but now I see life, light, colour and happy faces everywhere. Besides during the crisis I realised something even more powerful; the power of humanity: a chord that binds us all together.

Now that we have seen it, endured it and risen again from that calamity, collectively as a society. No doubt it has scarred our memories but it has made us stronger, bounded us more together. It has made us realise how fragile we are, as human beings and how we have no one but each other to look up to for help and support.
It has made us realise how small our society is but at the same time it has made us resilient, united and be prepared for the future. And oh... not to forget the beauty of a closed knit society and our beautiful homeland has dawned upon us after that calamity.