Homes under water, relief still a mirage

from Times of India
Published on 20 Jun 2013 View Original

Ambika Pandit, TNN | Jun 20, 2013, 06.09 AM IST

NEW DELHI: On Monday, residents of Old Usmanpur—a cluster of 500 river bed dwellings along the Yamuna Pushta—had watched the river rise and hoped that the flood would spare their homes. The settlement is no longer visible.

On Wednesday, the water swallowed the cluster. Only a few terrace tops remained visible as evidence of the dwellings. Only a few metres of the motorable road to Wazirabad showed above the water. Rescue boats carried families from homes to the strip of road now being used as a river bank. The main road along the Pushta had turned into a relief camp for evacuees. Till Wednesday evening there were people who refused to leave their homes and camped on rooftops hoping that the water would recede. At some places forced evacuation was carried out by the authorities in view of the danger. At others, the boats seemed inadequate to facilitate quick evacuation in the face a surging river.

Similar scenes marked most of Yamuna Pushta with those evacuated or rescued struggling to come to terms with their loss. Most people here know what being homeless means as the floods have ravaged their dwellings more than once. Many were displaced during the 2010 floods. By afternoon, hundreds of evacuees sat along the Geeta Colony bridge and near the DND flyway across Mayur Vihar Phase-I.

In all, 5,500 people were evacuated from the river bed and the floodplain, as per government estimates, and 400 were rescued from the water over two days.

But the relief following rescue and evacuation was short-lived as most families now have no choice but to live on the streets. While the government said relief camps were being set up with tents, water, food and toilet facilities, till Wednesday afternoon many were still to benefit from the assurance. Aman Kumar, a class 7 student, pointed to his belongings lying in the open. He said his parents had been sitting on the footpath since Tuesday afternoon but were yet to get assistance.

"The tents are yet to come up and there is no water and food. The DJB water tanker is inadequate for everyone," said Aman, a government school student at Shastri Park. Holding her one-year-old son, Ameena, who is pregnant with her second child, slept below a plastic sheet. Her husband, a day labourer, eagerly awaited a tent for his family. Children rushed to an approaching DJB tanker to fill up buckets, pots and pans.

Near Wazirabad women set up their utensils in the open while the men put up plastic sheets as relief from the rain. Children explored their new environment watching the traffic chaos on the bridge.