Exmouth flood survivor says she is lucky to be alive

A survivor of the devastating Indian floods has been speaking to The Exmouth Journal about her experience of the dramatic events.

A RELIEVED Exmouth woman says she is lucky to be alive after surviving deadly floods which claimed hundreds of lives in India.

Danielle Soper, of Isca Road, witnessed first-hand the devastation of floods which struck the country earlier this month. She has described fleeing in terror as the death toll mounted around her.

The 35-year-old, who shares living in England with her primary home in Auroville, in southern India, was visiting Leh, Ladakh, in the Himalayan region, with her Kashmiri husband, Muneer Bhat, at the time.

Danielle said she would never forget the moment when scores of dead bodies were pulled from the rubble.

Recalling the drama, she said: “We experienced huge trauma during the few days of the disaster having to run up the mountain side to Shanti Stupa with locals and foreigners alike.

“We sought higher, safer ground away from the second night of floods.”

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She added: “We spent the night there and came down to discover the back part of the hotel gone, trees and land swept away, guest houses and homes gone and dirt everywhere creating huge dust problems.

“The words ‘run, run, water is coming’ still ring in my ears and bring tears of remembering the fear.”

Danielle, whose mum, dad and two of her brothers live in Exmouth, works as a consultant for the British Council in India.

She married Muneer last October.The couple own a shop in Auroville which stocks Kashmiri crafts, Indian jewellery, clothes and Tibetan goods.

“Ladakhis are compassionate and calm people and little panic was felt compared to what I imagine in other places due to their Buddhist culture,” she said.

“On the night at the Stupa they chanted into the darkness inducing calm and strength to all around.

“We sat crammed into a tiny cafe tucked under tables with arms and legs entwined in a spaghetti of humans all seeking shelter from the rain outside and floods below.

“Most of the thousands spending the night on the Stupa had to stay outside in the cold and wet but some built shelters with what they could carry up.

“As we had to run to higher ground we weren’t able to take much - one blanket for eight people. Most were in the same situation with little with them accept what they could grab. I really felt awful for them as they left their homes behind not knowing if they would still be standing.

“It is such a small population here that everyone will know someone who died. We know that hundreds in Leh alone and saw many dead bodies dragged from the rubble - a very disturbing sight.

“The locals rallied together to save people that were trapped, remove buried bodies, started the clean-up and collected donations of things people needed, like clothes and food.

“People mourned but most seemed motivated to help with foreign volunteers also giving a hand.”

Danielle is now in Srinagar, Kashmir, where Muneer’s family live. The couple are under a 24-hour curfew due to the level of violence in the region.

After her traumatic experience, she now wants to make the world aware of the suffering she has left behind and is calling for urgent aid to prevent the number of dead rising further.

“The Pakistan disaster which was also devastating, dominates the international news scene, but these people (in India) have also suffered and must be helped too.”