Frequented by former prime minister Indira Gandhi once, the iconic Argunet houseboat may have survived the recent flood fury but the HB Woodcock houseboat, stationed near Abi Guzar embankment, has been reduced to rubble as banks breached and drifted it to a nearby temple across the road.
Kashmir's flood fury not only devastated what came in its way on the ground but damaged number of houseboats, which earned the state the fame for its wood work, walnut interiors and intricate paper machie work on walls."It was 9:30 pm when the embankment witnessed a blast (on September 7).My son got trapped inside the debris of the houseboat. It took him half an hour to find way to a nearby structure. Our houseboat is nothing but rubble now," Abdul Kareem Kaloo, owner of HB Woodcock, told the HT. His was a five-bedroom houseboat where the family of seven used to put up. They live in a tent now.
Debris of the H B Woodcock houseboat near Abi Guzar area on the banks of river Jhelum.Peerzada Ashiq/HT Photo
The furiousness of the Jhelum can be gauged from the dismantled houseboat.While the roofing is at one place, the base drifted away. The furniture has reached to a nearby temple. Around 12-feet-wide embankment caved in and drifted along with the anchored houseboat.
"For people living in houseboats, it was a doomsday. We were worried about tourists staying there," said Abdul Aziz Tuman, former chairman of the Kashmir Houseboats Owners Association.
One estimate suggested that 60 houseboats were heavily damaged. Around 200 houseboats, according to the association, were hit by the floods. Around 1200 registered houseboats are moored in and around Dal Lake in Srinagar. The government has stopped granting permission to float fresh houseboats.
Tuman said it took a lot of local efforts to rescue tourists, particularly tourists like London-based Michael, who walks on crutches. "Around 2000 tourists fled the houseboats and interiors of the Dal Lake on September 7," said Tuman, associated with the tourism industry for more than five decades.
The major damage took place to four houseboats in Chuth Koel because of rising waters, which touched historic level of around 19 feet in Dal Lake on that day, the ropes tied to anchors paved way and turning them upside down.
A super deluxe house's cost is between Rs one crore to three crore and the cost grades of deluxe from a few lakhs to more than 10 lakh.
"The old boats meant for residential purposes in Chuth Koel failed to face the fast rising waters. They turned turtle. It is costly to rebuild boats these days because of rising costs of wood planks," said Tuman.
Kashmir's houseboats like Gulfam and Thalla Palace achieved iconic stature when Shashi Kapoor-starrer Bollywood film 'Jab Jab Phool Khiley', shot there, became a blockbuster. Hundreds of Bollywood songs in and around the Dal Lake, spread over 11 sq km, continue to fascinate movie buffs across the country.
The floods have hit Kashmir tourism badly ending a happy summer season with around 8 lakh tourists visiting the Valley, on a sour note and leaving in its trail a major dip in tourist footfall.