Hyderabad: Asma Fatima (22) clung to a floating car, then used a rope to pull herself to safety through neck-deep water as rain water slowly inundated her home at Al Jubail colony in Falaknuma. For nearly four days, she had camped with her family on the upper floor of her two-storied house after which they were rescaued in a makeshift boat made of wood by four youngsters.
“We saw a boat coming down our lane and all of us started screaming for help,” said Anees Fatima, recalling the trauma she underwent at Al Jubail colony, one of the hardest hit areas by floods (caused due to heavy rains) in Hyderabad, first on October 14 and then on Saturday night when the city witneesed torrential rains once again. “Around four people wearing a tyre’s black tube carrying a temporary boat helped us board their boat and brought us to safe area near Falaknuma flyover,” Anees Fatima added on Sunday, thankful that she and her family were finally out of danger.
Due to the heavy downpours over the past week, which saw Hyderabad receive as high as 35 centimetres of rainfal, the city witnessed one of the worst floods in over two decades, which left at least 20 people dead several others dozens missing. Thousands of others, who were stranded in submerged homes in different parts of the city are also currently living in government shelters or are staying with their relatives, as their houses have been damaged.
The situation is so bad that even the Indian Army officers and personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were deployed in the rescue efforts in the Hyderabad’s south zone, which primarly comprises the Old City areas. While government action is expect, what has been heartening is that scores of local youngsters hav come forward to help flood victims, from across Hyderabad.
Even government officials said that unsung heroes of the massive relief operations were local youth (local) who went around in boats and volunteered to help rescue thousands of stranded people, especially in the Falaknuma area. They had come on their own even before officials had arrived. While many of them went into deep waters putting themslves in peril, others helped by providing candles, food items, cooked food and water to victims.
“They were in tears when we saved their lives. They treated us like God,” said Faizan (21) a first year engineering student and resident of Al Jubail colony. Rehman (24) who is also a student, and his friend Sohail (26), all became local boatmen who joined the rescue mission at Al Jubail colony.
“In last few days we have rescued hundreds of stranded people from Al Jubail colony. On Sunday, we also rescued an elderly women and her daughter who were stuck in the second floor from the last five days. They didn’t have any food and were surviving on water. Even officials could not reach their house as the flow of water coming from the Falaknuma nala was harsh. It could have also smashed the boat, but on Sunday, the water flow reduced and we rescued the aged women and her daughter,” said Faizan.
A elderly women Parveen Begum kept her hands on our head and said ‘Allah acha rakho bete tumlogon ku’ they will never forget us in their lives.”
Old city’s heroes
Mohamed Ateeq, whose family was rescued in Al Jubail colony by these youngsters on Sunday, said he was deeply indebted to them. ” My mother is in her 80’s and from day one, when the rains began, I could not reach out to her and my sister Anees Fatima. I was at work when it began pouring heavily on October 13, and only later I learnt that Al Jubail colony was inundated,” recalled Ateeq.
He added that even though he rushed to his house, heavy water-logging prevented him and police officials to enter his place. “So I slept on the Falaknuma flyover and was waiting for the police and Municipal Corporation officials to rescue my mother and daughter. They tried but could not as my home was heavily flooded, and water continued to overflow from the nala (sewer) as well,” he recalled.
Finally, on Sunday morning, his prayers were answered when the youngsters, on Ateeq’s request, undertook the rescue mission to save Anees and his mother. Ateeq also witnessed a rescue in which all four youngsters were in knee-deep waters and offered their backs for women to step on and climb into a rescue boat.
“I will never forget that day. They helped a lot of people,” said Ateeq and added that while NDRF teams had to halt their own rescue missions for safety reasons, these locals boys were whatever they could to provide food and essential items to people at Al Jubail colony. The role played by these youngsters in the rescue operation is now being lauded by both flood victims and politicians. “The biggest heroes these youngsters, they came in with temporary boats and rescued people,” said a police officail deployed at the Falaknuma flyover.