Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 15:25 UK

Flood misery in Andhra Pradesh

Villagers wade through flood waters in Andhra Pradesh on October 6, 2009
Flood water has washed away entire villages

The worst floods in more than 100 years have left behind a trail of death and destruction in five districts of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. BBC Hindi's Omer Farooq reports from Rajoli village in Mehbubnagar district, which has emerged as the symbol of this devastation.

The village, with a population of 15,000 and famous for its silk sari weavers, was completely flattened by the floods which hit in the dead of the night on 1 October. Almost a week later, shocked residents are yet to recover.

Row after row of houses and shops turned to rubble, and kiosks were washed away and overturned by the raging flood waters from the nearby Tungabhadra river.

A stink in the air, along with mud-covered household goods, rotten grain and shop merchandise, greet you when you enter the ancient village. To get here, you pass through mud and stagnated flood waters which cover the road for almost 2 km.

Eerie silence

Villagers - men, women and children - go back to their homes to salvage whatever they can from their destroyed homes and shops, and take them to their temporary shelters in nearby villages or to their relatives' homes.

The village is enveloped in an eerie silence which is shattered only by wailing and the sound of an occasional air force helicopter flying overhead to drop food and water supplies.

Flood victims rush for food packets being dropped from an Indian air force helicopter at a village in Mehbubnagar in Andhra Pradesh on Oct 5, 2009
Some say the help was late in coming

In the middle of the village, not far from an old fort, I found 45-year-old Venkamma, crying uncontrollably.

"I have lost everything. Nothing is left. Water washed away everything. Where will I go now and what will I do now," she wailed.

Her anguish is deepened by the fact that her eldest daughter's marriage is due in two months and all the dowry items, including the money she had put together, has been washed away.

Rajoli is one of more than 500 villages in Andhra Pradesh's five districts - Kurnool, Mehbubnagar, Nalgonda, Guntur and Krishna - hit hard by the worst-ever floods in the Godavari and Tungabhadra rivers and many other small rivulets.

Torrential rains over the past week have also caused floods in the upper reaches of Maharashtra and Karnataka states.

'A curse'

People of Rajoli have always regarded it as their good fortune to have the Tungabhadra river and Sunkesula power project nearby as this made the lands fertile.

"But now it has become a curse," said Mohammed Hanief, one of the several hundred weavers in the village.


"Our misfortune started on 1 October. After heavy rains the flow of water in Tungabhadra started rising but nobody thought it would become so deadly."

Ramesh Shetty, a cloth merchant who lost his shop and house, and narrowly escaped the jaws of death said: "Though fears were being expressed that the village would be flooded, nobody believed it because it had never happened in the past."

But this time, it did happen. Some time after midnight the bund (embankment) of the Sunkesula project gave way and the water burst out. A sheet of water, several feet high, rushed through the village washing away whatever got in its way.

"We had no chance. It was such a frightening situation in darkness that people just fled in panic wherever they could," he said.


Given the magnitude of the devastation, it was nothing less than a miracle that only 15 people died in the village.

The flooding was just the start of the nightmare.

Mr Shetty says many villagers took shelter on top of a three-storey building to escape the rising waters.

An elderly flood victim sits by her damaged house Karnataka on October 6, 2009
Many have lost their homes and all their possessions

"For several hours we used cell phones to call the district collector and other officials for help. But nobody came."

Hundreds of people remained stranded for almost 24 hours without food and water.

"Children were crying from hunger and many old people suffering from diabetes collapsed but we could not do any thing," Mr Shetty added.

The people of Rajoli are now physically and emotionally exhausted and face a bleak future as many families have lost their livelihood.

Questions about government help were met with ridicule.

"We are left only with clothes we wore that night," said Ratnamma. "We had to go without food and water for one full day before they reached us."

Later though, plenty of food and water was brought into the village by the government and several non-governmental organisations, but it is obvious that it will take much more than that to rebuild Rajoli.

The villagers say they have no hope. "Everything is over for the village. It has no future left," said Bhootalingam as he loaded his salvage household goods onto a tractor to leave the place.

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