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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 August 2005, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Indian villagers' flood ordeal
By Zubair Ahmed
BBC News, Diva villages, Maharashtra

Flooded Vasai marshlands outside Mumbai
Parts of rural Maharashtra are still inundated
Diva, a cluster of 22 tiny villages on the edge of the Arabian sea, is 70km (45 miles) from Mumbai.

One of the worst affected by the rains, it was cut off from the rest of the world for seven days.

Access is still very difficult, as sections of the road leading up to the villages have been washed away by the rains.

Lata Patil, a local official, said the road had been submerged in water.

"The bumpy ride on this road is nothing new, but the floods have destroyed it. There was waist-deep water on this very road," he said.

A 30-minute journey from Thane district turned out to be a two-hour, back-breaking ordeal.

Roads were broken, bridges were damaged and yet a caravan of goods trucks were trundling along the road leading to Pune, an IT hub 120km from Mumbai.

Insufficient help

In Diva there are two sets of casualty figures - officially 22 people have died, but villagers believe the number is more than 200. Many are missing, they say.

But those who have survived - 10,000 of them - are living a life of misery.

The flood waters washed away most of their belongings. What remains is stench, filth and fear of epidemics.

A milkman takes his bike through a waterlogged street in Mumbai on Tuesday
The flooding has subsided in Mumbai
One family said that they had lost everything in the house and their paddy fields, their main source of income, were also ruined.

Chetan Patil, head of the family, says "we have to start all over again".

But, like many others I spoke to, he was not sure how they will do it.

"We need the government's help. But we'll never ask for it, it's our pride," they say.

"What we have now is what's left on our bodies"

The villages are in low-lying areas.

The local railway station, on higher land, was the refuge for most of the villagers last Tuesday when the water levels rose up to the roofs of people's homes.

Some families were still taking shelter in an out-of-service train.

Suresh Kale has been living in the train with his wife and child for the last 10 days.

"The entire village had come here to the station, on all the four platforms and in this train. It was chaotic. The water was chasing us here in the train as well," he said.

"We cannot go back home unless the water recedes completely."

His wife is still traumatised by the experience: "We have lost everything. I took a shower after 10 days," she said.

The villagers say they are dependent on support from a neighbouring town.

Mr Patil said: "No government help came for eight days.

"It was our Muslim neighbours from Mumbra town who have been looking after us since the floods started on Tuesday."

Stoicism

Government help finally arrived only hours before the BBC team reached Diva on Wednesday evening.

Ten kilos of rice was all they were being given.

Day wage labourers in Mumbai carry sacks of onions on Monday
People in Mumbai are beginning to resume everyday activities
It was not enough for the 200-odd people in the queue.

They needed more and needed other essential commodities too.

The residents, mainly from the middle class, were amazingly stoic.

They said they had never asked for help and that their pride stopped them from asking for food and medicines.

But it was obvious that they needed help and needed it urgently.

Despite the government's claim of reaching out to all affected areas, the help given has been woefully inadequate.

Non-governmental organisations were not to be seen in Diva either.

The residents need food, medicines, clothes and cash to restart their life all over again.

The tales of woe were no different in other houses, in other villages and in other towns, which stand on the edge of the Arabian Sea.


SEE ALSO:
Over 1,000 die in Indian floods
04 Aug 05 |  South Asia
Mumbai struggles back to normal
03 Aug 05 |  South Asia
India counts the cost of floods
02 Aug 05 |  South Asia
Rains disrupt life in south India
02 Aug 05 |  South Asia
Lucky escape for Mumbai jumbo jet
30 Jul 05 |  South Asia


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