Our team instrumental in saving 6000 people in Kashmir, says ZFI chief
New Delhi, 25 Sep 2014: The unprecedented devastating flood in Jammu and Kashmir has left hundreds of people dead and several lakhs homeless. In the wake of the late and slow response of the state machinery to rescue people in flooded areas, several individuals and NGOs played instrumental in saving thousands of people. The New Delhi-based Zakat Foundation of India was one of the first few groups that swung into relief and rescue operation in Kashmir. Zakat Foundation of India president ex-civil servant Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood gives details about the relief and rescue efforts of his team in flood-affected areas in Kashmir since 10th Sep.
On Sept 10 itself Zakat Foundation of India had realized that the Central Government needed to directly supervise the rescue & relief operations rather than leaving these to the provincial government as the former is in a higher command and is better equipped; also the number of choppers and boats deployed by the Government had to be hiked several fold. ZFI members & others staged a sit-in demonstration near the seat of Government in New Delhi and submitted their memorandum to the prime minister. That was covered by electronic & print media. It paid off. In 24 hours both the demands were accepted by the Government.
For ten days to two weeks the ground floors of all houses in 60% of different areas of the valley were fully under water and in many cases even a portion of the first floor. Now, after two weeks, 80% of the water has drained out and about 2-3 feet high water remains in different areas. When the ZFI truck laden with supply bags reaches these areas and wades through the water the waves so created are, at times, sufficiently forceful to fell the walls of the adjoining houses that have become brittle due to being inundated for 10 days or more. Animal carcasses have been adding to the pollution woes; later, many of these have been dissolved through chemicals under specialized government supervision after ZFI advocated this at high level.
As the efforts of the Government agencies had limitations of time, human imagination, internal coordination and financial constraints - yet hundreds of thousands desperately needed help every moment - we at Zakat Foundation of India sprang into action since Sept 8 itself. We scouted around India's coastal cities and were able to purchase nine inflatable rubber boats that could accommodate 10 persons each and got them airlifted to Srinagar where our team had arrived in advance. We also got airlifted 100 life saving jackets. We recruited about 30 local volunteers and provided 18 hour rescue support daily for 15 days.
Thus, ZFI has been instrumental in saving about 6,000 persons' life and shifting another 9,000 out of helpless loneliness. Besides, ZFI has been airlifting about 20 cartons of supply daily from New Delhi to Srinagar and distributing these among the people that remained trapped for two weeks or so. These cartons have been carrying drinking water, torches, batteries, candles (the valley had no electric supply for ten days), cereals and oil, milk, sugar, tea, dates, medicines & surgical items, sanitary napkins, chlorine tablets for cleaning water, phenyl, blankets, etc. Doctors have been deployed. ZFI has been working in these colonies of Srinagar: Tangpur, Hamdaniya, Numbrish, Firdausabad, Sarsadbad, Qamarwadi, Batmalo, Bal Garden, Kiran Nagar and many more. We've also gone to South Kashmir.
Now the work of rehabilitating half a million people who have practically become internally displaced persons (IDPs) is a huge challenge. The valley needs to be cleaned up and disinfected. Most of the houses have to be re-built or reinforced. In the intervening period alternate accommodation and plastic sheets/mattresses/quilts/blankets are to be organized for tens of thousands. Cleaning up and restoring the normal utility of places of worship is ZFI's priority. ZFI teams are still working in Kashmir and will continue to do so till needed.