“At Lal Chowk in Srinagar, we could go for rescuing people only in the night as people were hostile to us. The supporters of Yasin Malik targeted us. Army had to fire once too,” said deputy commandant National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Gambhir Singh Negi.
He arrived with two NDRF teams, based in Gandhinagar and Pune, at the Chandigarh Air Force station on Thursday night. Air officer commanding (AOC) SK Indoria was himself present to receive the rescuers. A rousing reception was given to the heroes.
“We reached Srinagar at 11 am on September 7 from Ahmedabad. By 3:30 pm, we were on streets rescuing people. The water level was even 15 feet at some places. On Day 1 alone, we worked till 11 pm and rescued 1600 people,” said Negi. The next day they launched operations at 3:30 am in the morning and worked again till 11 pm. “We recued 1500-1600 people on the second day too. For three consecutive days we were in water,” he said.
“The public was hostile to us. There was no one to control the crowd. There was grave a law and order problem. No one from the civil police were present as their houses were also under water. People used to snatch our boats,” he told when asked about the difficulties they faced.
In Lal Chowk area, the people were violent towards us, but at other places, the locals co-operated, he informed.
He said once an army rescue boat was capsizing with four army personnel along with 20 civilians, including Lt Col Avinash Chander.
“We successfully rescued them. It was quite difficult and challenging operation for us. In another operation, we rescued 20 CRPF personnel along with over 100 labourers in Karannagar. They were trapped in an old building which could fall any moment. We shifted them to a safer place,” he said.
“People were forcing us to save their kin. They panicked. We faced allegations of saving tourists and not locals. But still I can say that 40-50 % of people co-operated with us,” he said.
When asked for his mobile phone number, he said, “I lost my mobile phone at Lal Chowk. For first 3-4 days we could not even contact with our family members.”