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Badlapur: Shelter destroyed, 13 children make temple their home

Nineteen children from the ashram, run by Shishuvihar Vidyaprasarak trust, managed to walk to a mini-bus owned by the shelter home. It took them to the house of a trustee of the organisation.

ANJANA KAMBLE, the cook and caretaker at the shelter home Satkarm Balashram, has borrowed dishes to cook for the 13 children who were saved from the rising water in Badlapur in the nick of time on Friday night.

“They still wake up at night, scared, and start calling out for me. It was one scary night, to get all of them out as the water was gushing in,” she recounted. The shelter home for children, located in Badlapur village in Thane, saw water rise to around 10 feet on Friday night due to heavy rainfall. The children had been escorted out by then, but only just.

Nineteen children from the ashram, run by Shishuvihar Vidyaprasarak trust, managed to walk to a mini-bus owned by the shelter home. It took them to the house of a trustee of the organisation. “The trustee had a big house with three rooms where the children spent the night. On Saturday, we started looking for a place to shift them,” said Namdev Peshane, the treasurer of the organisation and a retired teacher for the visually impaired.

Pedsane said he and others started calling the helplines of the disaster management team and police around 10.30 pm on Friday, when the water near the ashram started rising. By the time the children left, the water was lapping around their shoulders.

“By 11.30 pm, when the children finally managed to leave, water had risen very high. The younger ones were carried by the older children and the staff. A couple of men in the area also helped,” Peshane said. Neither the police nor any other rescuers from the district administration showed up.

On Saturday, the children were moved to the Bhaktalaya (a room where priests and devotees take rest) next to the Gajanan Maharaj Temple in Konher village, a couple of kilometres from the shelter home. “They are sleeping on mats that were provided by the temple staff. We had no food, clothes or books. The children had fled in their sleepwear and that is what they wore till some kind people donated clothes on Saturday afternoon,” Kamble said.

Out of the 19 children, six were sent to homes where they had single parents taking care of them, Peshane said. “The other 13 are in the temple. They are between five to 15 years old,” he added.

One of the older children, aged 15, had gone back to check out the shelter home on Wednesday. “The entire place is damaged, all of our computers and other items are destroyed,” he said. Recounting the horror of Friday night, he said, “I remember being woken up by Anjana mausi. We were asked to wear our raincoats… when someone tried to open the window, we saw water everywhere, up to the windows.”

The shelter home has tried to put back together the material it has lost over the last few days. “We have some people coming with foodgrains, pulses and vegetables. We will be able to cook and feed the children. A huge bundle of clothes have been donated by someone from Mumbai. However, we need stationery, books and other teaching items. Our computers also need to be replaced,” Peshane said.

The trust secretary, Vidyadhar Sathe, said: “The state machinery has been ignoring us, and while we don’t want to be a burden, we need help. The entire building of the shelter home has been wrecked, and the walls have damp passages where children can’t live. Their toys, other items, everything has been destroyed. We have managed to get a private JCB to clean out the debris left by the water. For a month at least, the children can’t return.

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