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Rediff News  All News  » News » Paradise in shambles

Paradise in shambles

October 01, 2014 09:18 IST

It will take months if not years before flood-ravaged Srinagar is restored to its pristine glory. Mukhtar Ahmad / reports.

Image: A view of the historic Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar. Photograph: Umar Ganie

The historic Lal Chowk in the heart of Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar looks devastated, bearing no resemblance of its pre-flood glory.

At no point of time in its living memory has the business hub of the Valley been ravaged by floods as it did on September 7 evening.

The Jhelum, which flows through the centre of Srinagar, has remained within its embankments in the worst of times. This time, however, the river let loose its fury on the posh localities of Rajbagh, Jawaharnagar, Gogjibagh and Wazirbagh on its left banks and then submerged Lal Chowk (Red Square) in a span of just ten hours.

At several points embankments, which people thought to be impregnable, breached bringing waves of flood waters to inundate the city centre up to a level of over 12 ft.

Image: Shopkeepers cleaning their shops at Regal Chowk. Photograph: Umar Ganie

Businesses of all hues were submerged and remained so for nearly two weeks, piling up colossal losses to businesses.

Though the exact loss estimation is still in progress, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry puts business and industrial losses at a trillion rupees.

State Chief Secretary Mohammad Iqbal Khanday told media persons that 12.5 lakh families have been affected across the state due to the flood and damage to public and private property is estimated to be worth thousands of crores.

The now-receded water levels in Lal Chowk have laid threadbare the havoc.

Image: A shopowner rests in front of his damaged shop. Photograph: Umar Ganie

The clock tower, the city centre landmark built in 1980, was the only structure visible above the water.

“Even for a cup of tea, we now have to drive several kilometers in the old city. This place was so proud of its Kashmiri cuisine. Look at these streets; how desolate they look! There are heaps of silt inside buildings and on the roads,” said Mehmood, a shopkeeper.

The stench is unavoidable. One has to cover the face to avoid flying dust and foul smell emanating from the city centre.

The adjacent Polo View lane, which would pride in offering Kashmiri handicrafts including expensive Pashmina shawls, garments and dry fruits, is in shambles with shopkeepers now clearing their shops of damaged goods and piling them up on the pavement for the Srinagar Municipal Corporation trucks to pick up.

Image: Shopkeepers cleaning their shop at Regal Chowk. Photograph: Umar Ganie

Khanday said that till date over 1,500 carcasses had been removed from Srinagar and scientifically disposed by the SMC. 

“Besides hundreds of tons of garbage is being removed daily from the city in the clean-up operations,” he added.

The chief secretary said no outbreak of any disease had been reported from anywhere in the state and situation is being constantly monitored. 

“As many as 7 lakh children in the age group of 6 months to 15 years have been vaccinated.”

Image: streets of Lal Chowk are strewn with debris from shops and homes in the locality. Photograph: Umar Ganie

Khanday said Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had written a detailed letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting a special package for handling relief and rehabilitation aspects of the disaster.

“It will take months if not years to once again set up the place and businesses, and restore normalcy. We have lost everything,” said Rauf Ahmad, a shopkeeper in Lal Chowk. 

Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar