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U'khand cloudburst: Chamoli's Jakhni village turns a picture of destruction

Flashfloods wreaked havoc in Chamoli district, with houses washed away and the entire area strewn all over with huge boulders.

Jakhni (U'khand): Four days after flashfloods wreaked havoc in Chamoli district, this village in Ghat block looks like a blighted land on Tuesday with houses washed away and the entire area strewn all over with huge boulders.

Jakhni was the worst-hit village in the district in the recent flashfloods and landslides triggered by torrential rains which have claimed at least 18 lives in the state.

Balbir Lal, who lives in a small settlement beneath Jakhni called Dhelabagad, is still struggling to overcome the shock of seeing his wife being swallowed by a deluge of mud and slush that gushed into his home in the wake of the torrential rains in the wee hours of July 1.

Her heart-rending cries as she was sucked into the depths of a stream of mud still seem to haunt Balbir who struggled for several hours in a veritable sea of pebbles and boulders to save her, injuring himself badly in the process.

"Though a downpour started at 12 PM on June 30, everything was okay till the wee hours of June 1 when suddenly huge boulders came riding over?a furious wave of mud and slush from Jakhni side and hit our homes. We nervously ran towards the hills but the deluge had arrived there even before we could. I somehow saved myself but failed to save her (his wife). The image of my wife sinking into the depths still haunts me and would perhaps continue to do so for the rest of my life," says 55-year-old Balbir.

A picturesque settlement till four days ago, Dhelabagad has turned into a heap of sand with all temporary houses razed to the ground and several of their occupants missing.

The problems of?electricity, water and commutation persist in all the villages of Ghaat area with five pedestrian bridges washed away in the heavy rains.?

There is a barrage site of a hydro-electricity company in the area where the loss has been maximum in Jakhni. Locals maintain that the distillation tank and diversion wares installed by the company there also contributed hugely to the destruction.

For the safety of the distillation tank and diversion wares, big machines are active all day in the area removing boulders, Balbir's younger brother Mohan Lal said.

The barrage and installations made by the company on the Jakhni river for mining does not let the course of the river keep straight in case of a sudden spate. It has also contributed a lot to the widespread destruction in the area?, he claimed. 

Apart from three persons being killed in the village more than 20 livestock perished in the rains, while landslides damaged cultivable land.

Former panchayat member Gangiram said most of the people in the village depend on agriculture for a livelihood. With vast stretches of cultivable land destroyed by landslides, they are now facing the crisis of being without a means of livelihood.

Despite government claims about food grains being made available for free to affected people, Gangiram said those affected by the crisis in Dhelabagad have still not got a makeshift arrangement for their lodging. They are making it do by staying with their relatives in nearby Ganesh Nagar.

Anita Devi, a mother of two, who lost all she had in the flashfloods that hit Dholbagad, vented similar feelings. "We have been homeless for the past three days. We have taken refuge at a relative's place in Ganesh Nagar," she says.?

Jakhni's Gram Pradhan Manoj Kathait says, "The bridges are washed away. The pedestrian routes are also damaged. There is no water, no electricity. With a 200-metre stretch of the approach road to Jakhni damaged by the flashflood in Nandakini, residents of the village have to trek for three km up a steep hill everyday for even small essential items."

"Temporary arrangements for the residence, food and health of the affected population needs to be made on an urgent basis," Kathait added.?