NEPALGUNJ, Aug 21: When flood hit his village last week, Chhabikala Pun of Lalpur village was among the thousands of people to leave their homes. By the time she started fleeing the scene, her house was fully inundated by water. She is now back in her village after spending a week in a local public school only to find her house in ruins. “Nothing is left now. The house is not there,” she lamented. “It feels very bad to roam around here,” she added.
When flood entered her village last Saturday, surviving the disaster was the first priority. When death seemed so imminent , those who could save themselves were considered lucky. “We all were so terrified that just saving our lives was all we could think of. We felt like getting a new life after overcoming the danger and fear. The flood was so forceful,” Pun narrated. However, now losing all the essentials and belongings as well as the house to the flood has left her wondering whether life is worth living or not. “Life is precious but when it is too hard, you find it meaningless,” she said.
The debris of the house is scattered all around. Her family is trying to put those together and erect a new shelter. “However, it seems very difficult,” Pun stated.
After the flood hit their settlement, the family first rushed to a neighbor's house, which was a concrete building. The ground floor was full of water so all of them gathered in the terrace. From there, Pun was carefully watching her house. In a while, it crumbled down due to the water current. “We saw it before our own eyes. It was really hard to see all our belongings swept away by the flood,” she narrated. “How shall we rebuild the house now?” she wondered.
It's been two days since Pun and her family members have been working hard to erect a new house. The debris gives a stench of something rotting underneath. Rice, wheat and other grains, which would suffice for few more months have all been damaged. “Water soaked it all. Some sacks were washed away. Now whatever left is not edible,” she said.
Pun wanted to stay at the school along with her family for some more days. However, they were not allowed. “We were told that we must leave. Otherwise, we would not have come here now. What use it is to come here when we are left with nothing?” she said.
When she was forced out from the school, Pun was handed over a tarpaulin. The tarpaulin is very small, and on top of that, it leaks. “We tried to fix it and live under it. But it is so small that we cannot manage to live under it. In addition to that, when it rains, all the water leaks in,” she informed.
Pun wished for support from the government for the people like her. A little money or food or clothes is not going to help. She urged for shelter. “We need shelter. We cannot do it on our own. So, the government must help us build a house,” she demanded.
Another flood victim Geeta Budhamagar of Pasarampur village is also struggling to build a better shelter. However, amid the ruins of her old house, the nursing mother feels equally helpless. Holding her four - month-old baby, Budhamagar looks busy erecting the hut. However, she knows that a fragile hut would not work. “If we don't have a strong house, that may not last even this monsoon,” she lamented.
Budhamagar and Pun are the representative cases of thousands of flood victims. They are not worried about food, they say. “We are not given shelter in school. Where shall we stay?” she asked. “It's still raining. We would be grateful if the government manages something for us,” she said.
Flood victims of Daduwa, Narainapur and Raptisonari, among other villages are these days busy erecting their house. They lament that they are feeling helpless as they do not have even timber and other materials around.
“The flood has devastated everything. It's even more challenging than other times to build house on our own,” Ram Lakhan Yadav of Duduwa village said. He added that losing all the food in their store has given another shock to the people. “We had stored grains that would last for a year. The flood washed away all of them,” he lamented. He also urged for safe shelter above anything else.
Flood is an annual calamity for the people living around the Rapti river. They state that the government must think of long-term solution to the problem. “We need to be relocated to safer areas. Or else, this kind of problem will recur again,” said Yadav.
Tulasiram Tharu of Raptisonari village has the same thing to say. Also a civil society leader, Tharu feels that distribution of relief worth millions of rupees must be channelized differently. “Those who are under extreme risk of flood need to be relocated,” he said.
Photo caption: Chhabikala Pun at her house damaged by the recent flood.
2) Ruins of house of flood victims at Raptisonari village - Arjun Oli