Sunday, 28 September 2008
Musi Floods 1908: What really happened that fateful day
September 28, 2008
By Syed Akbar
It was September 28, 1908. Indians elsewhere were waging the war of Independence
against the Britishers. Hyderabadis, then under the Nizam's regime, woke up to death and destruction. The sight was pathetic and words beggar description. It was this day, exactly 100 years ago, the calm Musi turned furious and vented its anger on all those that came its way.
Over 15,000 people lay dead and 80,000 houses were razed to the ground. The calamity
was of great magnitude. Hyderabad had not witnessed such a sorrowful event before. The city had received heavy rainfall for just two days beginning September 26, 1908. The casualty was quite high as both the banks of Musi were thickly populated even in those days.As is the case with every river, Musi, otherwise a calm and tame river, turns furious once in a few years. Meteorologist have found that suddenly at intervals of 20 or 30 years, the river becomes swollen for a few hours, overflows and submerges the settlements along the banks. Again, once in 50 or 100 years a more serious flood occurs, sweeping away a great width of the city and levying a heavy toll of human life, cattle and property.
"On September 28, 1908 the river rose to 15 to 20 feet high in the inhabited area on both sides enveloping houses and property. Thousands of people were killed and about one quarter of the entire population was rendered homeless," points out senior city historian Muhammad Safiullah.
In those days the Musi was spanned by four bridges, Puranapul (built in 1578) and
Mussallam Jung, Afzalgunj and Chaderghat, all built in 1860s. According to him, the monsoon rainfall since June 1 that year had been less than normal.
There was no rain till September 26 afternoon. At about 4 pm a sharp shower fell for half-an hour, followed by a drizzle up to 6.30 p.m.
After 9 pm it rained again for another half-an hour. This was not a sharp shower. Then at 11.30 pm. a heavy burst followed which continued well onto the morning. And by 8 am. on Sunday, a rainfall of over six inches was recorded. Rain, now heavy and now light, with occasional stoppages continued throughout Sunday.
After midnight on Sunday it developed into a cloud burst over an extensive area. There is no record about the intensity of this burst, but all accounts agree that it was exceptionally heavy.
"Before this occurred, the tanks in the catchment of the river were full and the ground everywhere supersaturated. The rain descended in sheets, flooded the small tanks and over burdened their weak weirs. As a result, one tank after another gave way. The largest of these intercepting tanks are the Palmakul tank and the Parti reservoir, both in the Yentair river valley. The heaviest rainfall was recorded at Shamshabad in the vicinity of these two tanks. The rain fall gauge on Monday morning was 12.80 inches in 24 hours.
Never since regular rainfall records began to be maintained that the total daily rainfall exceeded even half this amount," Safiullah said while browsing through old chronicles on the Musi deluge.
At 6 am on Sunday there was about four feet water in the river. By 10 am the water level went up to 20 ft. By 12 noon water flowed from bank to bank and began to enter houses in Kolsawadi.
This is the present site of Osmania General Hospital. By 4 pm the water stood several feet over the Kolsawadi road. The first serious warning came at about 2 am on Monday morning. Water headed up behind Puranapul and breached the city rampart wall on the west side at about 3 am.
Sudden dangerous rise began at about 7 am and by 9 am the bridges had all been
overtopped. By 10 am the Imlibun island was completely under water. The greatest depth of water above the general bed level of the river varied from 38 to 45 feet. The flood receded by 8 pm but not before creating havoc. More people were killed by falling houses, than by drowning.