THE TWO-room house of 60-year-old Jamuben Rabari in the middle of Khariya became the refuge of around 200 people when flood waters recently inundated this Banaskantha village. As many as 24 people, including 17 from a family, have been killed in the flood which ravaged the village located on the banks of Banas river.
Extremely heavy rainfall on the intervening night of July 24 and July 25, and subsequent flooding of villages on the banks of Banas had forced Jamuben’s neighbours and others residents, including some from nearby villages, to take shelter in her house, where she lives with her daughter, son and daughter-in-law. Her single-storey house was little affected by the flood as it has been built on an 8-floot plinth with added advantage of its location — atop a narrow alley descending to the arterial road of the village.
“Nearly 100 women were sheltered in the two rooms and an equal number of men were on the roof. We remained there for more than 25 hours from 9 pm on July 24. We all were scared for our lives, unsure whether we would come out of the house alive or not,” said Kursibhai Rabari (30), one of the survivors whose house is nearly 50 m away from Jamuben’s.
Jamuben and her 32-year-old son had recently constructed the house after pulling down their old dilapidated building.
The decision of raising it to such a height was deliberate owing to the frequency of floods, including the inundation in 2015 when Jamuben’s old house was damaged.
“While the entire village climbed on to the roofs of their houses, we thought of taking a refuge at Jamuben’s house since it was on a higher ground. Also, we were not sure till how long our old house would stand the waters,” said Jamuben’s neighbour Gafurbhai Sumra, who along with his wife Ayeshabano, considers themselves fortunate to be alive following the flood fury. Another Muslim family of Rasoolbhai too had taken shelter at Jamuben’s house.
As the men braced against the rain on the roof, the women kept a watch on the water levels. “The older ones sat through the ordeal, while the younger ones took turns since there was not much space. We all held to each other and prayed,” recalls Jamuben.
Nine members of Kursibhai’s family, including his two-year-old daughter, along with two dozen relatives, visiting him from Patan, had to run towards Jamuben’s house after they realised that the water was advancing at a high speed.
In between, the blood pressure of Kursibhai’s 70-year-old mother shot up and she fainted. “After the rain stopped, bracing against chin-deep water, she was admitted to a hospital in Patan,” said Kursibahi. “Why do you cry now? It is all over and we are all fine,” Kursibhai consoled her.
The severity of the flood can be gauged by the remnants of houses surrounding Jamuben’s. The lone wall of Maniba Vaghela’s house at the entrance of Khariya was the evidence of the gravity of flood’s fury. The roof of his house collapsed, while three walls were washed away in the flood. “The older houses gave way and collapsed like house of cards,” said Malabhai, Rabari’s neighbour.