Kashmir Floods: Tipper driver turns saviour for people at Kanihama

Srinagar: When the flood waters raged and entered homes in Kanihama, Kanipora on September 7, Abdul Rashid Bhat (30), a tipper driver from Panzan, Chadoora, received an SOS call from his sister who was trapped in the second storey of her submerged house. After rushing to Kanihama along with his three brothers, Rashid found people there calling for help from the windows and rooftops of their inundated houses. The water level had crossed above 15 feet in the area. He could do nothing, but he did not give up. Bhat and his three younger brothers went on to quietly rescue over 250 people in their three days of heroic, 24×7 rescue work in Kanihama.
“On the first day seeing the high water levels, we thought we could do nothing to save people in that area,” says Bhat who ferries bricks on his tipper from Chadoora to Sopore and Kupwara to make a living. “But then I thought of going back and utilizing the tubes of my tipper and some wooden logs to make a boat. We had the required material to make the boat that could save lives and carry people to safety in that area.”
In the evening Rashid rushed to his home alongwith his brothers and pulled out four tubes from the tyres of his tipper vehicle. From 10 pm on that night he started making a temporary platform boat. His brothers arranged a 20 mm plywood sheet from a neighborhood shop. Another neighbor volunteered to give his generator for drilling holes in the sheets and tying the tubes with ropes. By 3 pm on that night the boat was ready.
Next morning, at 5:30 am Bhat and his brothers again set out towards Kanihama along with their tube-boat made overnight. They trusted their boat to carry around 8 to 10 people through flood waters. “We rescued eleven family members of my sister and few other people on this boat on the first day,” says Bhat. “There was not a single boat from the administration in that area for rescuing people. On the previous night people trapped there told us that an army boat was seen once in the area and then they had given up on rescuing people, saying their boat cannot come to the area again.”
After rescuing his sister and her family, Abdul Rashid could have gone home and taken back his boat. But he stayed back in Kanihama for three consecutive days along with his three brothers and the self-made boat. They wanted to rescue more families caught in the flood waters.
Next to be rescued on their boat were 22 people, says Bhat, including women and children, trapped in the second storey of a local mosque. For the next two days he rescued over 50 people every day, accompanied alternately by his brothers, as he rowed into the interiors of the localities on his boat, looking for trapped people. In the evening he would get food for himself and for his brothers from his home, also sharing it with others displaced by the floods in the area.
Bhat says initially his family back home didn’t want him to rescue people in the area, fearing that if the boat capsizes and someone dies, the police would book him. But he listened to his conscience. He knew the boat could fail anytime but he was willing to take the risk to save the lives of people caught in flood. Fortunately the boat didn’t fail him and he didn’t stop saving people. “When I left that place after three days of rescue work, I gave the boat to other young people because it was still needed there although the water had receded to some extent,” says Bhat.
“Rashid Sahab came to the rescue of people at a time when the administration was absent on the ground and boats were missing,” says Zahoor Ahmad, his neighbor in Chadoora. “We witnessed how he worked hard day and night along with his brothers to rescue the flood affected people,” says Zahoor. “We are proud of his heroic efforts.”

Author Author
Majid Maqbool


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