2016 Jul 13
By Azraa Killru
As the flood levels receded, so did the news regarding the flood victims. Nearly two months ago, Colombo suburbs disappeared under murky brown water for days, and many lives were lost in the landslides. This was a catastrophe second to only the 2004 Tsunami that hit our nation. Or was it?
Aside from the bulletins and call for help that were downright distressing, we heard plenty of stuff Lankans did that ranged from ‘hilarious’ to ‘disturbingly ridiculous’. Here are a few:
- Playing cricket in the floods – Hey, it’s true that Sri Lankans idolize cricket but a game of cricket could wait until at least the roads were dry, yeah? Even the matches are halted due to rain but how did our citizens manage to actually play cricket on the flooded roads? Perhaps, our local and international cricket players could take a few lessons from these champs!
- Boat rides–Some of the families thrilled themselves with a boat ride, not because they were trapped in their houses but because it was a quicker substitute than going for an actual boating holiday.
- Selfies in the flood – This one was an absolute trendsetter. The hashtag #SLFlood will prominently display this picture. But this was the only one that came under the radar although there were a handful of selfies and groupfies with a bunch of morons flooding social media.
- Robbery spree – Vacant houses were nothing less than a heaven for the robbers. People left their valuables in haste to get out of the danger zones, leaving ample opportunity for thieves to get their greedy hands on all the items.
- Hoarding –As generous individuals donated emergency relief items and subsequently other essentials for the flood victims, many a times it reached the wrong hands. Rather than acting as a responsible medium through which the donations can reach the affected people, the ones handling the inventory decided to act on their best interests and allocated the things for themselves or their acquaintances rather than to the deserving needy. Too many scumbags flocked around undeniably!
- Volunteering woes –Many volunteers put their lives at risk to evacuate people trapped in their houses, who initially refused to leave due to the fear of being robbed (which was justified) but they waited until the last minute. It was the threat of imminent death that compelled them to vacate. But by then it was too late since rescuers and boats couldn’t reach certain areas.
Unfortunately, a handful of people in the neighbourhood got down to the rescue mission simply for the pleasure of extending a helping hand to women, causing chaos on top of chaos. This put the volunteers from NGOs who were really there to help in bit of a tight spot, in the suspicious eyes of the authoritative figures. They were hindered from continuing their rescue mission, just because of the behavior of a few spoilt eggs!
And then what happened?
Beyond a point, the refugee camps could no longer act as a temporary shelter. The victims had no choice but to return home. Walls drenched in dirty water for days embraced them along with the stench. Stepping into their homes amid the rubble and muck was incredibly heartbreaking.Settling in was not easy, cleaning was horrendous but however the residents managed to salvage their homes. It was a point where they had to start fresh because none of the household items could be kept. Submerged in water for days, the furniture, electronics, clothes, books, kitchen appliances, etc. had to be disposed since none were hygienic or in working condition.
The donating hype that gripped our country during the initial days of flooding calmed down as time slipped by and two months down the line, the flood victims have already disappeared from the busy minds of our busy folks.
Local temples and mosques, along with a few NGOs and private donors assisted the flood victims to put their lives back on track by offering a few essentials needed for basic living but that was nowhere close to the life they had. New things had to be purchased and not many families were capable of handling the difficulty financially.
Recovery can happen. But how long will that take? Will they manage to get over the trauma of losing family members and friends? Or will they be able to recover financial loss? The cold walls, eroding in flakes at a mere touch, the ruined interior and the horrendous memories the disaster brings are likely to take quite some time to heal.
According to the Ministry of Disaster Management, nearly 474 houses were fully damaged and 3674 houses were partially damaged by the floods and landslides. The government promised to rebuild every house damaged by the disaster but when is this likely to happen remain a question. Will this become a forgotten tale just like the stories of Tsunami: 26 December 2004 victims?