Just outside the Sashastra Seema Bal Academy campus, an entire colony, Shakti Vihar, which locals say had 100-150 houses, lies buried under the sand
Srinagar is counting its losses after the raging Alaknanda river destroyed much of what was located on its banks on the night of June 16.
Ironically, one of the worst sufferers has been the SSB, a home ministry-controlled organisation entrusted with the task of strengthening defence in border areas. It is a leading agency for intelligence gathering on the Indo-Nepalese border.
On June 16, neither could it foresee the terrible floods, nor could it defend its boundary, as the Alaknanda gobbled up an entire playground, battered a newly-built officers’ training centre and washed away equipment and training material at the SSB Academy.
The total damage is estimated at Rs 80 crore, said an officer of the organisation.
“The new building, which was for training assistant commandants and their living rooms, was recently constructed at a cost of Rs 9 crore. The state-of-the-art facility is completely damaged,” he said.
“No arms and ammunition were, however, among the material washed away or covered with sand,” the officer said.
The main concrete structure has been damaged, as have smaller structures, with plastic/asbestos roofs. Most roofs have been washed away and wherever there are any left, they are covered with sand and gravel deposits of one feet.
Steel almirahs have been battered out of shape and ceiling fans have been twisted. The force and amount of water that could achieve this kind of destruction is beyond one’s comprehension.
But like in Kedarnath, a Shiva temple in the vicinity has survived miraculously. The peripheral walls are gone and mud has filled the inside, but the structure itself is safe.
Pandit Mahadev Prasad, the temple priest, whose family has been maintaining the place of worship for seven generations, said, “The river was one km from where I stand. It had never come this far before.”
The priest ascribes the unprecedented amount of water to two factors. “The dam authorities opened a tunnel on the night of June 16. On the same night, the Kedar valley above us was deluged.”
Prasad says the flooding in Kedarnath was caused by lightning strikes on a glacier. “The strikes opened up a huge quantity of water locked up in the mountains. Nothing else can cause such damage.”
Just outside the SSB Academy campus, an entire colony, Shakti Vihar, which locals say had 100-150 houses, lies buried under the sand.
There are unbelievable scenes as residents come in droves to locate what were once their homes. Though the river has receded to its original channel, mounds of sand have raised the ground levels, dwarfing the lamp posts. Dogs, for a change, play with the wires instead of the posts.
Some lucky people, who had two-storeyed houses that jutted out of the sand, have pressed bulldozers into service to excavate the buried floors.
Vijay, who works in Delhi, rushed back after hearing the news of the disaster.
“The roof of my house is not visible. All my belongings are inside the house and the bulldozer is unable to reach the inside,” he says.
Vijay and his two children are putting up at his sister’s place.
“An ultimatum came at 2 am on June 16. It all happened in a matter of 1-2 hours. We could not save our cows and buffaloes. They lie buried inside,” he says, pointing to the earth.
Asha Rawat, a mother of two, woke up at 3 am as the swelling water kissed her feet.
“We had a single-storied house. It got drowned in the flood,” she says.
She and her two children managed to escape, but could not save any of their belongings.
“We are wearing clothes given by people and staying with an acquaintance,” she said.
Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters