For many, September is still a ‘sitamgar’ for the untold misery it brought
Old-timers never forget some things and the devastating Musi floods is one of them. On this day 104 years ago the city had its brush with death that changed its civic character forever. By now it has become folklore. People recall the tragic event from their grandfathers when the skies opened up on September 28, 1908 — leaving a trail of death and destruction.
For many September is still a ‘sitamgar’ for the untold misery it brought. Such is the horror of the great flood that even a rumour of dam burst is enough to send people running for their lives. And it actually happened. But in hindsight the historic deluge led to the planned development of Hyderabad and construction of its principle water sources — Osmansagar and Himayatsagar.
Trail of destruction
Though it is now dry most of the year but on that sodden Monday the Musi turned into a swirling one-eyed monster cutting a swathe of death and destruction. Nobody had the faintest idea that the drizzle would turn into a cloudburst and end up in a deluge.
The first serious warning came around 2 a.m. that day when water flowed over Puranapul and breached the city rampart wall on the west side. By 6 a.m. the water level rose alarmingly to 10 feet and touched the crown arch of Afzal bridge along Kolsawadi, the place where Osmania General Hospital (OGH) is now situated.
As panic-stricken people held on to dear life, the flood level rose by the hour. Within a span of three-and-half hours the flood rose to 16 ft overtopping the parapet walls of Puranapul, Muslimjungpul, Chadarghat and Afzal bridge. The latter disappeared without a ripple.
Kolsawadi worst hit
A day after Hyderabad was a vista of devastated homes, uprooted trees, corpses and carcasses. Records show that in Kolsawadi alone about 2,000 persons were washed away. An equal number perished at Ghansi Bazar.
More than a century later, the city planners do not seem to have learnt any lesson from the historic deluge. Even now a moderate rainfall is enough to make the civic apparatus fall like ninepins.
So much for disaster management. Worse now, the once heaving Musi has turned into a receptacle for untreated domestic and industrial waste. Pity that the city has taken away water from its very own river and given it back sewage.
Perhaps, there is a lesson in the tamarind tree in OGH which saved 150 lives. It did not ask whether one was a Muslim or a Hindu. Nor did it bother to find out whether one was from Telangana or any other region. The tree sheltered everyone who sought refuge on it.
A Hindi couplet captures it aptly:
Ham sayedar ped zamane ke kaam aye
Jab sukhne lage to jalane ke kaam aye