Sitting on the corner of an agricultural field ravaged by rains and flash floods, a woman wails “Hoovi, Hoovi...she was my golden girl“.
A short distance away, police personnel and locals are busy taking away the body of Hoovi, the daughter of the woman Lakshmamma, entangled in bushes engulfed by flood waters.
Another elderly woman sitting near her berates the woman, asking her to stop crying. “Will your daughter come back?” This elicits a louder wail and Lakshmamma is inconsolable. “See my fate”, she moans.
Four villagers lift the decomposed body, placing it in a ‘lungi’ Rescue workers cover their faces till the eyes, but the stench is overpowering and they cough and almost vomit.
16-year-old Hoovamma, fondly called Hoovi, had taken cattle for grazing three-four days ago in Shiroora village of this district, but only the cattle returned as she was swept away by flash floods. Her body was found floating as waters began to recede.
The scenes of misery, despair, helplessness have swept parts of north Karnataka after last weeks unprecedented rains and subsequent flash floods that left a trail of destruction on a never before magnitude.
In this district alone, 22 persons have perished. A car carrying a doctor’s family from northern district headquarters town of Belgaum was washed away at the height of the calamity. The doctor swam to safety but his wife, three children and their 18-year-old servant died.
Boulders rolled down onto another villager Thippanna Doddamani’s house at Vakkandurga killing him and four members of his family.
Elsewhere in the district, its the human suffering that stares one in the face - collapsed houses, desperate faces, people running after relief materials, scores of families huddled in temporary shelters and destruction of standing crops on lakhs of hectares of land.
Flash floods from Hirehalla rivulet, strengthened in a big measure by other tributaries and release of water from the dam by the same name had wreaked havoc in surrounding villages.
Whether its Muttala, Shiroora, Mudlapura, Virapura, Sindogi, Katralli and Dambralli village, visited by this correspondent, the flood victims were in dire straits.
As flood waters entered their homes, they fled and took shelter in temples, rooftops and trees.
“We used umbrellas to protect ourselves from rains even as water in our house was knee-deep. We went hungry for two to three days. Our village was cut off and there was no communication. How could we cook?,” 60-year-old Basappa Barker asked.
Mudlapur bridge downstream of Hirehalla dam was washed away and people now use a round—about route that is several kilometres longer.