Trapped in rain

2nd October 2009

This is a story where I and my friends happened to get caught in the recent rains. Looking back now, I feel that the hardships we encountered are minuscule when compared to the sufferings of stranded devotees of Mantralaya or the hapless people of flood affected areas of North Karnataka. But it was an experience to remember.

We had planned an eight day trip in the Western Ghats and the coastal areas of Karnataka. Things were great in Western Ghats though it was raining constantly all along. We arrived in Karwar on 1st October to cover the coastal belt of the trip. After visiting couple of beaches, it was felt that there was no fun to be at beach side during rains. So, we changed our plans and decided to go back to the forests. Since we had already checked into a lodge we decided to move on the next day.

This decision made us struggle for next two days.

It rained for the whole night. When we went to have breakfast in the morning, we found that the restaurant was water logged. The heavy rains convinced us to abandon all our plans and return back to Bengaluru. So, we checked out of the hotel and set off towards Ankola. Just three km from Karwar, we hit the road block. The road was water logged. I parked my car at the side and thinking what next to do. A yellow board Indica manages to cross the water while an auto gets stuck in water. Locals tell about 5-7 feet deep waters for several km that we should cross later. Within few minutes the Indica returns back unable to cross the next water body. There are no vehicles coming from other side either.

We then decide to take an alternative road passing through Kadra. It would be longer but we had no options. All along that road we see water flowing on the road. At one place, car shakes and partially losses control while navigating on a water body. Our heart beat stops for a while!! Then there is was stream overflowing on a bridge!!!! And it was raining like never before and driving becomes extremely difficult. It was too risky to continue with such conditions and so we decided to return back to Karwar and stay in the Hotel.

By the time we reach the hotel we had stayed the previous day, it was full. There were tourists coming from Goa and struck in Karwar. The next task was to hunt for a hotel to stay in Karwar town. Finally, we find a hotel (“Navaratna”) which had few free rooms. The rain does not even allow fetching the luggage from car. It was already 10:30AM and we still had not done our breakfast. The lodge does not have a restaurant and so we ask the room boy to bring some stuff.

In few minutes, the hotel was filled with stranded tourists. Many of them were returning from Goa. We came to know that the road to Goa was also cut off due to the rains. There was no exit path from Karwar.

The rain never stopped. I had never seen such a rain in my life (It rained 43cm that day in Karwar). We confine ourselves to the hotel rooms. With no power, watching TV was also out of question.

At 2PM, Krishna and I set out for lunch. Most of the roads in Karwar were filled in water. The restaurant that we went had very less items and since the water level was rising, the restaurant people were planning to shut down the hotel. So, we ate whatever was available and also packed the same for Subbu and Saravana who were in the room.

By 4:30PM, the rain gave some respite. Fed up with sitting idle in the room, we set out to see the town. Barring two or three roads, the entire town was under water. Due to full moon time, sea was rough and Kali River could not join into the sea. The result was that the water from the town could not join Kali River resulting in the town under water.

At one place the NH-17 was cut and a canal was made to route the water from the town into the sea. That was a desperate measure by Town Corporation who had left with no options. The highway to Ankola was still blocked and in addition to water logging, series of landslides had occurred all along the route. The situation was bad and town had turned into a prison for us.

We knew that the next issue would be food. So, as a backup we picked up some fruits and biscuits. Dinner itself was an adventure. The only hotel opened near the bus stand was crowded. The hotel guys were struggling to cope up with the mad rush. So much that we had to barge into the kitchen and ask some guy to prepare some stuff and quickly pack it ourselves (so that other people would not snatch). Survival of the fittest!!

I later called up my Mother who was traveling in the part of flood hit Andhra Pradesh. I was relieved to hear that she has moved out of the danger zone.

We slept hoping to get out of town on the next day.

We got up early in the morning and by 7AM; we were ready to check-out with all bags dumped into the car. It had not rained much during the night and our hopes had increased. Reality was dawned on us as we came to know that Karwar-Ankola highway was severely hit by a series of landslides. We cannot move until it was cleared. Few people who decided to gamble went only to return back within few minutes.

There were policemen at every corner of the town. Apparently, a bandh was called by some organization for some cause. What timing!! We were convinced that we have to forget about breakfast.

By that time, a kind of relationship was built among the inmates of the lodge. Everybody was on the same situation. We just wanted some “breaking news”.

I was an unhappy man by that time and decided to roam around the town instead of staying in the dark room (no power!!). The situation at the bus stand was even worse. People who had come on the previous day were still stuck and were arguing with policemen. Buses would move only after receiving go ahead from Police. Not everybody could afford a room and many of them had spent the night in the bus stand. And adding to the woes was non availability of food. Policemen were telling that there was a bigger tragedy where a landslide near Karwar had killed 21 people.

Will there be fighting for food? I hoped thing may not go that far.

Things happened to move at 11AM. The landslides were not cleared, but private vehicles were being allowed to go in an alternate route passing though the Seabird Naval base. We quickly checked-out of the hotel and started towards Ankola.

A couple of km from Karwar, we could see the devastations caused by rain. There were landslides all along the road. Many boulders had fallen on the road. At the second section of the ghat road, we were diverted to Seabird naval base. I must say that the only positive side of this endurance was that we got an opportunity to see the naval base. (Non army people cannot enter). It was an amazing site to see the townships in front of the sea and huge naval vessels docked.

Once out of Naval base, we could see lot of houses completely fallen due to rains and people picking up the belongings. It was a sad scene to watch. On the opposite side, traffic was piled up with trucks and buses as only private vehicles were allowed through the naval base. Policemen were doing the good job of maintaining the traffic.

The normal route that one would take to Bengaluru was through Yellapur and Hubli. Since the places near Hubli and Davanagere was flodded, we decided to take NH206 passing through Honnawar and Shimoga. This is the road I travel often and was convinced that there would not be any water logging.

It was 11PM when I reached my Home in Bengaluru. It was a non stop driving for 12 hours (barring short stops for food).

From web:
In addition to rains, man made issues were also the cause for floods and landslides.

State of Karwar after rains:

There are also these kind of people (now found everywhere)

Finally, I found some videos in Youtube on Karwar floods