By Saba Syed Hafeez for TwoCircles.net
Recently, many parts of Bihar and Bengal were hit hard with a severe flood including the Seemanchal region. Kishanganj, where our INSAN School and INSAN College are located, and its surrounding areas have suffered some of the worst of it. This was an unprecedented flood even for an area prone to occasional flooding. The last big one in 1968 was said to be caused due to heavy rain and the overflow of water from the Jalpaiguri embankment in northern Bengal. However, even then, the water in most of Kishanganj city had entered about 2-3 feet. Since it was common that homes were built on higher foundations (chabotrah), most residents in the township escaped the flooding inside their homes.
It was late Saturday night of August 12 when people in Kishanganj and its surrounding areas started noticing the water entering their homes. Within hours it had risen considerably. Although a warning was given earlier, people were completely caught off guard with the speed and volume of this flash flood. Terrified, people rushed to higher ground late at night to save themselves and whatever they could grab.
In the next few hours, most of the city was waist or chest-high under water, some parts even up to 9 feet. Our own INSAN’s Shiksha Nagar campus was submerged 4-5 feet. Since most of the people in the town have double story homes, they were able to rush to upper floors. Everything that was left on the first floors is completely destroyed. INSAN’s Shiksha Nagar is a modest hut style campus, a reflection of its Gandhian founder, late Syed Bhai (Dr Syed Hasan). It only has one three story building and students and staff were able to evacuate to higher ground just in time, in the middle of the night, including the young ones in their sleep. We can’t thank Allah enough for all the lives saved.
However, those in the rural area and poor neighbourhoods took the brunt of the destruction and a large number of lives have been lost. They are still suffering from their homes destroyed, food and water contaminated, animals perished, and many poor who earn daily wages are out of work. Hence, there is an urgent need to assist in this post flood phase to prevent the outbreak of any epidemic and provide the basic necessities to those in need. Local organizations and administrations are inundated with the overwhelming demand and also need help from outside sources.
For a few weeks, the surrounding areas were cut off from each other and from the rest of the country since many rail tracks, roads, and bridges were swept away or collapsed. All traffic connecting mainland India to its northeast region were at a standstill. Electricity and phone communications went down a few hours after the flood and remained dark for days. All these had added and still are further obstacles to rescue and relief efforts.
As the water receded, the residents began realizing the sad devastation they have never before experienced in their lifetime. Besides economical destruction, many lives have been lost, drowned or swept away in the water current and their corpses found buried in mud and bushes, the pictures of which are too graphic to share here.
Bihar Flood at a Glance*
More than 1.7 crore people affected in 18 districts and 8394 villages
514 lives lost
8.5 lakhs rescued
1358 Relief Camps through Various NGOs and Govt Agencies
4.2 lakhs homeless being sheltered
5.5 lakhs being fed in relief kitchens
* Source: Bihar Disaster Management (http://disastermgmt.bih.nic.in/) as of September 5, 2017
Can these floodings be prevented, or human and economical loss be minimized? These are the questions we need to give serious thought to as we embrace more extreme weather patterns not just in India but throughout the world. As I write, other parts of India, Southeast Asia, and the American states of Texas and Louisiana are also facing floods; Hurricane Irma has crashed Caribbean Islands at places more than 100 miles per hour. Florida is about to be hit next. Our thoughts and prayers go out for them as well.
Floods come and go. The actual timing of flood activity ranges from a few hours to a few days. In Kishanganj city, the initial nightmare ordeal lasted for about 14 -16 hours as people horrifically experienced the constant rising of water from about 9-10 PM till midday the next day. However long, it leaves a severe, devastating mark.
Now people are slowly trying to piece together whatever has been left. The relief work has finally started gaining momentum as affected areas are becoming more accessible. Many makeshift alternative dirt roads are being built to divert some flow of traffic and army engineers are repairing the ruined rail tracks. Yet the urgent need of emergency supplies of food, water, medicine, and clothes in many remote areas and poor localities are still needed.
After rescue and emergency relief, there is still a long road ahead of rebuilding the lives and community of those afflicted. Many people, especially the poor, have no roof to go back to and are living in shelters.
Similarly, many institutions are also coping with the aftermath of the flood. At INSAN, we are also assessing the damage. The majority of our classrooms, educational materials, computers, library, labs, offices, and hostels were underwater for a few days, leaving behind massive damage; several walls even gave way to the flash flood.
We appeal to everyone one, government, NGOs, and individuals, to join in this post flood relief and rebuilding. In this sacred month of Dhul Hijjah, may Allah reward everyone for the good deeds.
The following are some of the national and local organization you can lend a hand to:
Tauheed Educational Trust, Maulana Matiur Rahman Email: [email protected]com, Ph: 91- 98202 60173
Human Chain, Mudassir Alam, Email: [email protected], Ph: 91- 82929 50298
All India Taleemi wa Milli Foundation, Maulana Asrarul haque Qasmi, Ph; 91-98188 93994
To Assist in Rebuilding at INSAN
Mumbai, Assam, Bengal, Gujrat, UP Flood Reliefs
Those of you who would like to help in the Mumbai or other flood relief efforts, please contact State Red Cross or one of the above organizations.
These tragedies also bring out the best of humankind. These situations require collaborative efforts from everyone regardless of creed or politics. Our hats go off to everyone who has lent their support to fellow humans in these difficult times. May The Almighty bless them for their dedication and zeal! In the midst of all this, it is beautiful to see people helping people, from far and near, regardless of region, religion, or politics.
The author is an INSAN alumni and engaged in hunger, homelessness, and educational causes in USA.