On 15 July 2018 there was a huge cloudburst in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand that caused a huge landslide. Kuling a village with a mere population of 300 people, nearly 500 km away from Delhi was hit the worst. The landslide took away the only bridge that connected the locals to their village and Lohajung.
Around midnight it was pouring cats and dogs, that I woke up at night with the thunder and lighting. It was a pretty scary night to live through. Next morning it was still raining. There was no water in the taps nor was there any electricity.
Within the first week Laura and I decided to see the damage firsthand. We walked down the once road now rubble, we noticed the roads had given way to form little rivers. Our journey was cut shot after 2-3 km by a huge boulders blocking the way.
On way back, we noticed a huge black water tank flown across the mountain, and all pipelines had been uprooted due to the storm.
LOST THEIR OWN BRIDGE
The locals had created a wooden bridge for the time being to carry food grains across to feed their family. I remember within a month, the government had sent trucks with tons of steels to start the construction of the bridge.
Some houses in Kuling developed cracks on the walls and floor, while two houses in Kuling sank into the ground.
The cracks on the floor led the locals on camp in tents on the road . When there was a shortage of tents, they moved into their neighbours or relatives houses.
Even if the locals built a new house, it would be equally dangerous since the loose sand was the same. For the longest time, the locals didn’t have water,electricity and food.
We spoke to the elders of the village. They said they have never seen such a bad landslide in their lifetime.
SCHOOLS SHUT DOWN
Within ten days, Laura, Neha and I decided to resumed work in the schools of Kuling. Little did we know, the school was also badly hit but they were still running.
However, on 20 July the principle wrote a letter
to close down the school. In the letter he explains the precarious situation and that the landslide had taken away land near the school. The school building had developed cracks on the floor and walls as well.
I remember someone asking students to write a letter of how they were feeling. This is what one kid wrote.
“The storm have taken away the bridge. Every night, we fear to sleep since water is entering our houses.Cracks have reached 3 people’s houses, and it moving upwards. The fields are breaking off everyday”Class III student in Government Primary School Kuling
‘SAVE KULING CAMPAIGN’
The scenario in Kuling was very critical as most of the houses were built on sandy land.
Laura and I decided to keep the students busy during this time. So we conducted a cleanup and wrote “Safe Kuling!” made with plastic to help spread the word and some media attention.
It’s one thing for me to live with them for four months and its another to be a local from that village. I got a glimpse of the problems they faced, how they dealt with it. It was eye opening experience to all of us.