We are all aware of the Uttarakhand flood fury. The multi-day cloudburst caused devastating floods and landslides in the country’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami. Roads and communications were completely wiped off in just 36 hours. Flashfloods in river Ganga and its tributaries washed away anything and everything that came their way. Rudraprayag bore the brunt of the disaster with a large number of structures including shrines, hotels, rest houses, commercial and residential buildings collapsed like a pack of cards in Rudraparayag district. Thousands of pilgrims were stranded in Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts with 10,000 each at Badrinath and Govind Ghat, 6,000 at Ghanghariya and 1,000 at Joshimath. The first two groups of Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims on way to Tibet were asked to stay put at their respective places at Gunji and Almora till the road network was restored and the weather improved.
Many of our volunteers have been working on the field from Day1. Almost 5000 volunteers from our organization and our partner NGOs have been deployed on the field till now. Su and I, and a group of friends are also going to be there from Aug 10th.
We have been getting updates from our volunteers on the field as and when they are able to get access to mobile networks. I thought I should share these first-hand reports with all of you so that you can get a clear picture about the status of things at present. As reported after the relief work and survey of all the areas, rehab may take years together and we are going to be sending a batch of volunteers every month. Do let us know if any of you are willing to be a part of this.
# Report as on 26th of July – as told by our field volunteer Anand on phone (With networks working at snail’s pace, he is hardly able to send us mails or pics)
One of our volunteers Anand reached Dehradun last Friday to receive some resources sent from Hyderabad. Climate on one hand and lack of road network on the other hand, and unsparing torrential rains ensured he was stuck up in Dehradun for 3 days. Local volunteers helped and guided in arranging the transportation of the material to base camp in Uttarkashi. Some of the volunteers who are involved in the relief work belong to families badly affected by the floods or whose villages are disconnected due to heavy rains. They are also being helped in all possible ways.
Anand left Dehradun with the relief material loaded in a truck for Uttarkashi on Wednesday morning and was close to destination by evening. However, there was a huge landslide that stopped the traffic from both sides. Anand had to spend more than 24 hours at the spot with the truckload without any amenities from 23rd evening to 24th July night.
The truckload reached Uttarkashi on 24th night after 10 PM. Anand texted that he had succeeded in crossing the spot and reached the town after the day long struggle, the transporter and the truck driver demanding as much as they could for this transportation.
Villagers from couple of villages around Uttarkashi had been contacted and asked to come up with list of beneficiary families. On 25th, more than 50 families from surrounding villages came with their documents and the material was distributed after verification. Most of the families receiving the material were either daily wage earners or those whose houses have been completely washed off in the floods.
Rest of the material will be distributed in a day or two after verifying the records. Instead of carrying relief material to villages, the villagers have been asked to reach the town and receive the material because of the conditions of road and climate. Local volunteers have been roped in for the distribution of material.
We are feeding people from 50 villages daily and would be distributing ration for coming 4 months as everything has been washed away.
Volunteers might be required to walk couple of miles to reach some of the villages (in hilly areas at that) as roads have been cut, praying that the rain gods do not play spoilsport.
Due to continuing heavy rains and cloudburst, most of the villages beyond Gangori* are still inaccessible and roads are badly damaged. Orders have also been issued to stop the distribution work, as it may result in injuries to both volunteers and victims. We are still working on alternatives to provide relief in this case.
There is a limit of 25 kg maximum weight to be carried by a Pittu (coolie) and 60 Kg for a Khachar (Mule). With roads damaged, these are the only means of transportation available. And they are very expensive, given the climate and the terrain. Between Gangori and Maneri* (about 13 Km), the cost of one mule trip is between 1000 to 1200 rupees and that of a Pithu for 1 to 1.5 Km is about 250-300 rupees.
For families who have been dislocated from high altitude villages and have been staying at Garam Pani, Kot Bangla, Laksheshwar, Gangori* villages as refugees, relief material like clothes, kitchen kit etc.. have also been distributed apart from food material.
Your timely help may save a life, provide food to the hungry or shelter to people who have been displaced due to floods.
We are in great need of Winter wear including blankets, sweaters and tarpaulins.
If any of you are willing to donate in cash, please let me know and I can send you account details. These are the contents of the family kit we are providing to dislocated families.
* Refer Uttarakhand Crisis Map http://google.org/crisismap/2013-uttrakhand-floods?gl=in to locate these villages.