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‘It is like a hole in my heart’: A month after devastating cloudburst, authorities call off search for 19 missing people in Kishtwar

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REPRESENTATIONAL PICTURE


Srinagar: Riyaz Ahmad has become an emotional wreck since his mother Saja Begum went missing in the flash floods at Honzar village of Kishtwar district last month.

Flashback of horrible scenes still plays in his mind. His eyes well up with tears whenever somebody discusses tragedy with him. Riyaz’s parents were washed away by strong currents on July 27. Days later, his father’s body was retrieved, but the whereabouts of his mother remain unknown.

 
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Saja Begum, one of the 19 missing people in Kishtwar cloudburst (KM/Special Arrangement)

“I was on duty in Srinagar when I received a call that there have been flash floods in our village. I rushed home and found everything in tatters.  Our home was washed away and both my parents were missing. Days after, we located the body of my father. The whereabouts of my mother are still not known. It is very painful to live with this memory. It is like a hole in my heart,” Riyaz told The Kashmir Monitor.

Seven people were killed and 19 others went missing when a massive cloudburst triggered flash floods in Honzar village on July 27. 

A month on, the rescuers have called off the operation in the village.  After National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams were called back, the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) too have called off the operation.

“We have called off the operation. We have cleared the debris at some places,” Shafaqat Hussain, Senior Superintendent of Police, Kishtwar told The Kashmir Monitor.

Deputy Commissioner of Kishtwar AK Sharma said no survivors could be found in the month-long search operation. “We have called off the operation now,” he said.

Earlier, search and rescue teams had feared that 19 missing people might have been washed away by strong currents. Water flow was so high that authorities opened the gates of some dams. This led to a belief that maybe the bodies might have been washed away.

Seven houses and two kothas have been swept away by the flash floods. Most of the people had vacated the houses when the cloudburst triggered flash floods. 

“Most of the homeless people are staying with their relatives in the village. Some have shifted to Kishtwar town where they have taken rooms on rent,” said Syed Imran, who heads Ababeel Trust.

In fact, Ababeel Trust has been at the forefront of relief efforts in the village. The trust has so far distributed, 50 quilts, 50 mattresses,  50 blankets, 10 gas stoves, utensils, food packs, 75 ply boards, 120 roofing sheets, 10 tarpaulin sheets, clothes, and other items.

“Our volunteers frequently visited the village with relief material. One of the volunteers returned only yesterday. He has told us that search operation has been called off,” said Imran.