Field diary – Red Cross provides relief in Uttrakhand
It was death and destruction everywhere. About 25 days after the flash floods had wiped off villages, towns, thousands of people, animals, roads, bridges, buildings and probably everything that came its way, the sky continued to look gloomy. The furious river still wore a fearful look. Increasingly termed as one of the worst natural disasters to have hit the Indian state of Uttarakhand, I was very sure of how challenging it would be, to be part of the National Disaster Response Team (NDRT)/ National Disaster Water Sanitation Response Team (NDWRT).
On the invitation of the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS), I joined the NDRT/ NDWRT team and headed to Phata (in Rudraprayag District). The aim was to install water purification units in Phata and to promote household water treatment and best hygiene practices in the communities. Negotiating the tough terrain was the beginning of challenges that awaited our days. It took us over two days to cover the difficult terrain of 280 kilometres from Dehradun to Phata as the monstrous landslides had gobbled up most of the roads. The destruction this disaster had caused to the community was beyond any possible human imagination. At Phata, the first thing done was the installation of a water purification unit with the help of local community volunteers. Eventually, as the purification unit began functioning, the team started visiting schools to spread awareness about the hygiene practices.
Over the next few days, our mission was all about consoling emotionally drained flood victims while carrying on with our principle aim of providing access to purified water and conducting hygiene promotion sessions in the schools. Gradually hundreds of students from various schools had been exposed to the training sessions.
During my mission from 10 to 22 July 2013, there were several instances where I witnessed examples of extraordinary human courage. In one of the nearby villages that I visited, I met a middle-aged shopkeeper whose son had gone missing during the floods. When we met him last, it was already over two weeks and he still had no news of his son. That was just one of many similar stories. As we drove back from Phata, we carried memories of some challenging moments and examples of some brave locals who were fighting against all the odds and still trying to cope with life.
Jitin Jose Tom,
ICRC Cooperation Field Officer