Radio link connects people in flooded Kashmir Valley

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Srinagar, Sept 21: 'This message is for Mohammad Ashraf from Jawahar Nagar. If he is listening to this broadcast, please contact Radio Kashmir to inform about your well being'.

This message was aired on Radio Kashmir, which was operating from a makeshift transmitting station on Shankaracharya Hill after the local station office was inundated by flood waters.

Thousands of messages like these were read out by anchors of All India Radio's Kashmir station after the century's worst-ever floods snapped almost all communication links like mobiles and landline telephone connections.

Radio Kashmir, as the AIR's local station is known here, on September 4 started a messaging programme by keeping a dedicated e-mail address and telephones for receiving distress messages from the affected people.

An official of the Radio Kashmir said the station received nearly 2,000 emails per day of varied nature.

"We would get messages seeking help, we got messages about missing people, we would even get information about rising water level in the rivers and also villages, which we would air promptly in the hope of being of some help to people," Syed Humayun Qaiser, an official of the AIR Srinagar, said.

Qaiser said while many employees of the Radio Kashmir were themselves affected by the floods, they gave preference to call of duty. "It was our duty to act as a bridge between the authorities and the people ... and also between the people amongst themselves," he said. 

Qaiser said when the Radio Kashmir started the SMS service after floods in Srinagar, it was flooded with messages.

"We received an average of 2500 messages per day and it was not possible to read all of them. We gave preference to informative messages like those seeking help and those seeking information about missing relatives," he added.

While mobiles and telephones were not working in flood-affected areas, these services including Internet facilities were available in some areas not affected by the water. Flood victims who had taken refuge in these areas were able to trace their loved ones quicker due to Radio Kashmir's special broadcast on floods.

"I was happy to know my brother is safe when his message was read on Radio. Though I have not seen him yet, just the knowledge of him being alive is a great consolation," Shamima, whose brother was stuck in Soura area of the city after floods hit Rajbagh, said.

Qaiser said the special broadcast from Radio Kashmir will continue in the coming days as well. "We have passed through the worst time, hopefully, but we will continue the special broadcasts to help people deal with the aftermath of the floods," he added.

In reply to a question, he said Radio Kashmir over the years has been trusted medium of information but the floods had only strengthened that image.

"Radio as a medium might have lost listeners over the years but that was not the case in Kashmir.I agree that floods have increased the popularity of this medium," he added.

PTI

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