‘To share a room for five from a two-story house’

A woman sits next to the cracked wall of her home on January 10, 2023, in Joshimath in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, India.

Many still waiting to be evicted from their homes in Joshimath

Thousands of people in the northern Indian town of Joshimath have been stranded in camps after worrying cracks have appeared in their homes over the past few weeks. BBC Hindi’s Vineet Khare speaks to evacuated families.

Anshu Rawat was in a deep sleep when he heard a loud noise on January 3.

He thought he was dreaming, but as the screams got louder, he decided to check it out.

He witnessed chaos outside. People were running around in panic. Some carried their children in blankets with small bags.

There were rumors that a nearby hotel had collapsed. But the building was intact when her husband went out to check it out.

Yet it was their house that was damaged – open cracks had formed in its walls and porch.

Dazed and confused, Rawat, 27, grabbed her six-month-old daughter and ran to the roof with her husband and mother-in-law.

It was freezing cold. “I was wearing flip-flops and I didn’t have a wool hat to cover my head. My daughter just wore her jacket and cried all night,” he said.

A general view of the town of Joshimath in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state on January 12, 2023, after authorities in one of the holiest towns in the Indian Himalayas evacuated panicked residents after hundreds of homes began to form cracks and sink on January 8.  said officials.

Located on the slope of a hill, Joshimath was built on the debris of a landslide.

But the family waited for the night to pass.

The next day they packed up and moved out, leaving behind their spacious nine-room house and memories that will last a lifetime.

The family of five now lives in a temporary shelter – a cramped one-room accommodation – provided by the local government.

The room has a cooking tube, some kitchen utensils and a few beds where some family members sleep at night. Her husband and brother are lying on the floor.

The family wonders if they can go back home.

“Leaving home was painful,” said Ms. Rawat. “The pain of losing a home is indescribable.”

His family is among the hundreds displaced from their homes to schools, hotels and hostels after cracks in more than 670 buildings in the Himalayan town of 20,000 people.

Experts say the town is in danger of sinking, which they attribute to unplanned development and a lack of proper drainage system.

Joshimath

Anshu Rawat was forced to leave his home after cracks formed on him.

In the past few weeks, disaster response teams have evacuated hundreds of residents and moved them to safer places. It is unclear how long these families will have to stay in the new hostels. Officials say their priority for now is to save lives.

District judge Himanshu Khurana told the BBC: “If relocation occurs in Joshimath or elsewhere, this will involve talking to all stakeholders, but we are speeding up the process and will ensure it is done as soon as possible.”

But leaving your home, belongings and animals unprotected is never easy.

Some residents choose to return to their homes during the daytime to cook and care for their animals before returning to their temporary residence in the evening.

It’s a depressing routine and people say they’re homesick and worried about their future.

Some worry about the possible size of an aid package and seek written assurances from the government.

“The market price of our house is 8 million rupees (£80,728; $98,431). If we get the money from the government, we move wherever we want,” said Rawat.

One parent, who did not want to be named, complained about the impact the crisis had on her son’s studies and mental health.

“My son’s Grade 10 exams are approaching. How can he work like this? The government needs to act fast,” he said. “We want to live right”

Hemlata Rawat and her son live in the adjoining room of the same block.

On January 2, she left her 18-year-old house with 10 rooms built by her late husband. He carried two beds, two closets, a sofa, and some kitchenware to their campsite.

“It’s tough once you’re out of the comfort of your home,” he said. We wanted our children and grandchildren to grow up there,” he said.

He also hopes that the government will adequately compensate for his loss so that the family can move wherever they want.

Residents looking from the balcony of their damaged house marked with an 'X' by the authorities in Joshimath, Uttarakhand's Chamoli district, on January 12, 2023.

Many damaged homes have been marked as unsafe by local authorities.

Residents also complain about the quality of the facilities in the shelters.

Mandodari Devi said the water supply was uneven and without a room heater it was too cold. Authorities say they are doing their best to make residents feel comfortable.

But Ms. Devi misses the warmth of her home. He had recently installed new tiles in the bathroom of his two-story home.

“But now it’s all wasted,” he said.

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