Among the thousands of people impacted by the floods along Yamuna banks in Noida this week, there were hundreds who were hired as help in farmhouses built illegally in the low-lying areas near the river, officials said.
Government officials said the workers and staffers of the farmhouses-thousands in number – were not moved to safety in time, even though advisories were issued well before the area got inundated.
These farmhouses are located near Nagli Wajidpur village in Sector 135 on the other side of the pushta (embankment) towards the Yamuna – some two kilometres off the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway.
“More than 500 such people were evacuated on Thursday and Friday from the farmhouses. As water entered the ground, many of those stranded, including women, had taken shelter on the second floor of the farmhouses. They carried some food and water with them, which had started to run out,” an officer engaged in rescue and relief measures said.
Many of these stranded people were discovered on Thursday when top police officers and administration officials took a boat ride deep into the flooded areas.
Several teams of the National Disaster Response Force, the State Disaster Response Force, the Provincial Armed Constabulary, the Noida Police, the Fire Brigade, the Noida Authority, and local village residents were engaged in rescue operations.
“Most of the structures in the floodplains are illegally constructed. In recent years, we demolished over 250 farmhouses in anti-encroachment drives. A survey estimated the presence of around 500-600 more such illegal structures, against which action would be ensured in coming days,” Noida Authority CEO Ritu Maheshwari told PTI during an inspection of the site on Friday.
The IAS officer said that the owners of many of the farmhouses have moved court to get a stay on the demolition of their structures.
District Magistrate Manish Kumar Verma said 550 hectares of land in Gautam Buddh Nagar got submerged in water due to the floods. People in the Jewar area of Greater Noida along Yamuna and those settled along Hindon were also impacted due to the floods, but the most affected were those in Noida.
“Advisories were being issued to the people inhabiting the low-lying regions here for the past 10 days when heavy rainfall started in the region and water levels in the rivers rose. Despite this, many stayed back and did not move to safety in time,” Verma, who visited the site several times on Thursday and Friday, told PTI.
Kaushalya, around 50, said she worked at a farmhouse but was left behind with no help until a team of rescuers brought her and her husband back to safety Friday evening.
“I and my husband were stuck in the farmhouse. We both feel safe now and are thankful to those who saved us,” Kaushalya told PTI as she alighted from a boat on a partially submerged road leading to the string of farmhouses.
On the embankment, some of the rescued people now live in temporary structures with tarpaulin as a roof to shelter them. One of them, Shiv Pal, around 45, said he was working at a farmhouse with his wife and moved out just in time on Thursday.
“We live here and work to make some money because we have two daughters who are to be married. The daughters live back home in Shahjahanpur,” Shiv Pal’s wife said, as the couple waited to return to work in the farmhouse once the water subsided.
Altogether, by Friday evening, 7,210 people had been impacted by the floods as the overflowing Yamuna inundated around 550 hectares of low-lying land along its banks in Noida and Greater Noida.
Of the impacted people, 3,610 have been displaced and moved to shelter homes, where arrangements for their stay, food, water, and medications were made.
As many as 5,974 animals, including cattle, dogs, rabbits, ducks, roosters, and guinea pigs, have also been moved out of the waterlogged areas to safety since Thursday, according to official figures.