Srinagar: The busiest market place in Kashmir should have been bustling with shoppers preparing for Eid, but barely a fortnight before the festival the historic Lal Chowk city centre presents a scene of devastation, much like the rest of the flood-hit Valley.
The shopkeepers and passers-by cover their faces to avoid the stench emanating from the streets covered with heaps of garbage brought by the flood waters, spoilt goods and mud.
Lal Chowk was submerged under around eight feet of water and there are areas that are still inundated. "It was like the river Jhelum was flowing here," Ali Mohammad, a resident of Abi Guzar, near the famous Clock Tower in Lal Chowk, said.
"It (water) was roaring and once it overflowed the bund at many places, it destroyed everything that came before it," he said.
"Within hours, every bit of Lal Chowk was flooded. The waters entered shops, banks, hotels and every structure here," Mohammad said.
And now, about a fortnight later, the shopkeepers who would have been busy selling their goods are faced with the task of starting their business from scratch as they clean their outlets while trying to retrieve anything untouched by the flood waters.
The once famous Lambert Lane is filled with about a feet high layer of mud and spoilt goods from the shops lie scattered - the scene in every market and lane in the area.
"My shop is on the ground floor in Lambert Lane. The waters entered the shop drowning the full storey except the last shelf," Nisar Ahmad Wani, who runs Wani Arts, said.
His son, Rizwan Ahmad, has a ready-made garments shop adjacent to his father's. The goods in both the shops have been destroyed.
"We have suffered a loss of around Rs 50 lakh. There is hardly anything that has survived flood fury," Wani said.
The shops in the lane are empty and the furniture has been left in the open to dry. The branded merchandise which once used to be showcased on the shelves of these shops is now littering the ground with the streets.
The two famous sweets shops on the posh Residency Road are now empty.
At this time, the markets would have been abuzz with activity ahead of the Eid-ul-Zuha, which falls on October 6, but the floods exactly a month before the festival have cast a shadow on the festivities.