Old Yamuna Bridge closed

“Do you see that temple?” asks Dharmendra Kumar, as he points to a half-submerged structure in the distance being battered by waves of the swelling river in north Delhi’s Yamuna Bazar.

“The water will completely submerge it by dawn tomorrow [Monday]. There will be no sign of it. That is what happened the last time the Yamuna was in spate eight years ago, just like it has been over the last few days,” claims Mr. Kumar, a final-year Sanskrit Honours student at Delhi University.

The District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) said the water level of the Yamuna settled between 204.5 metres and 204.83 metres on Sunday. The Yamuna’s level was recorded at 205.3 metres on Saturday evening — well above the danger level of 204 metres.

The water level may rise again as over six lakh cusecs of water released by Haryana is expected to enter the city on Monday.

Meanwhile, evacuation of low-lying areas entered its second day on Sunday.

On the banks of the Yamuna here, makeshift embankments comprising large wooden blocks are being erected. Two-wheelers are being manoeuvred through the bylanes of a small settlement of around 200 families onto Ring Road via narrow flights of concrete stairs.

Small suitcases and carry bags are hurriedly being stuffed with clothes, food, electronics, toys, books and other belongings by residents heeding the administration’s call for evacuation.

Less than a kilometre down the road, a small portion of the catchment area leading to the Old Yamuna Bridge has become a prime spot for people eager to see the swelling river.

Media OB vans, bikes and rickshaws are seen jostling for parking space at the site.

“We came here from Rohini to see whether all the media reports about flooding were true,” says Renu Sharma, a student.

“It looks like an ocean; like we are at Marine Drive in Mumbai,” she adds.

Traffic movement banned

Later, the DDMA issued an order banning movement of traffic on the Old Yamuna Bridge after the flow in the Yamuna showed a rising trend in the evening.

The DDMA said that the highest water levels recorded at the site over the years were 207.49 metres in 1978, 207.11 metres in 2010 and 207.32 metres in 2013.

Mohammad Meherban, whose family was among over a dozen shifted to tenements along the Wazirabad Bridge, said things were “as bad as 2010, if not worse”.

“We had already begun packing our things and had decided to move as the water had submerged our farmland on Saturday afternoon, well before policemen came and suggested that we shift,” he said.

“Half of our belongings got submerged eight years ago. We have learnt our lesson,” he said.

Around a hundred families were evacuated from Wazirabad Pushta overnight, said Fatima Bibi, who also had to relocate. Families had to hurriedly gather their stock of wood, utensils, pets, goats and chickens.

“We will make our
here and spend the night, what else?” she says when asked how long she intended to bear with her temporary dislocation.

“And pray that the water released [from Haryana] chooses to pass our homes by as quickly as it has chosen to enter Delhi,” she adds.

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