Night the Dam Burst


We’d just finished our journey on the narrow winding road approximately one hour drive from Pune city in India, and entered the area of the dam delivering our water supply. We were being shown around the district by expatriate friends Weldon and Clara and they thought it would be nice to show us the beautiful park areas surrounding this dam and spend time picnicking there. Weldon had been born in India to expatriate parents so had an excellent command of language and culture and ignited beaming smiles from passing villagers as he shouted greetings to them in his booming voice while passing. We were newly arrived, and totally captivated by the stark beauty of the countryside, the after monsoon green, and later the glory of sunset with its rapidly changing colors reflected in the calm waters of the dam.

Weldon pointed to the valley far down below the dam wall. There even from a distance we could see a huge area gouged from the side of a far mountain, and in my imagination I could see a giant hand descending to scoop out this section of mountain leaving bare rock on remaining scarred surface. Glancing further down the valley we could see further evidence of this imaginary hand at work as it scooped from hills closer to the city. In the valley itself there were giant rocks rolled there by that same unseen hand. I was intrigued and turned to Weldon for an explanation. He told me all that damage had been done the night the dam burst.

It is catastrophes like these that etch themselves into the minds of people, and the story of the burst dam was one of the first related to us on arrival at our new posting. Like every other catastrophe the story was embellished as it passed along, and it was hard at this stage to understand exactly what had happened on that fateful evening. One thing everyone agreed on was that there had been little warning.

Close proximity of the dam to the city gave little time for civil defense to mobilize. It was reported thousands had been swept to their death by the raging wave of water rushing through the city taking buildings and bridges with it as it sped on its way to a rendezvous with the ocean far down the mountains and through steamy coastlands. It had been bent on an orgy of destruction and spared little in its path. Millions of dollars worth of property had been destroyed, utilities could not function for weeks afterward and many who were lucky enough to escape destruction were bankrupted by that flood.

Now a river in this part of the world is sacred and it was the stated opinion of city residents this was an act of a god displeased, and the river for some time became an object of terror and huts were rebuilt on higher ground. This of course was unusual. Because of the sacredness of rivers people live, work and socialize as close to the banks as possible, performing their daily sacred rituals and devotions on its edges.

As previously stated there are several versions at large as to why this terrible calamity took place. A widely circulated story in the city stated the great earthen dam had come under pressure from heavy monsoon rains, and those charged with responsibility for manipulating spillway gates didn’t do their job properly. According to this version water level rose to the top and ran over cutting channels through the compacted earth until, like a knife in an unseen hand, the wall was sliced and exploded down the valley in a terrible mixture of mud and water. The force of impact against the hills down stream sliced away their foundations and rolled gigantic stones down the valley like marbles in a game between giants. Careful attention to the spillway gates could have avoided this catastrophe it was said.

No one had bothered to report the impending danger over the three days this erosion was taking place it seemed. The tenders of the gates were inside their houses to escape heavy monsoon rains unaware that soon the dam would break and take revenge on city dwellers nearby and destroy livelihoods it was originally constructed to serve and protect.

As I pondered the possibility that this version of the story could be correct it made me conscious of the importance of paying attention to the little things of life. Sometimes we allow little faults to develop, or ignore small things which by their neglect lead to major problems later and our lives are placed in crisis.

I’m reminded of a quotation I came across. “The secret of life’s success is in a careful, conscientious attention to little things.” Ellen White

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2013 All rights reserved”

8 thoughts on “Night the Dam Burst

  1. What tremendous panic there must have been during that flood. How sad and terrible so many lives were lost and so many lost their belongings and went bankrupt. Another very well written story sweet Ian. Hugs


  2. Hello Ian,

    As aircraft maintenance engineers, we receive regular alerts – a mandatory requirement for us to read and sign off – from CAA Singapore. Usually these alerts are triggered by the FAA or CAA UK. Yeah, that’s how they nail us – so we can’t deny not knowing.

    I saw the dramatization over cable TV – Air Crash Investigations, I believe. Can’t recall whether it was part of Discovery or History Channel.

    All good wishes,


    1. Yes that was the title, “Air Crash Investigations.” I found the series very interesting but I don’t watch much TV these days. There’s a couple of interesting shows on Arctic air transportation too.


  3. Tiny oversights trigger grievous disasters.

    After a paint job on an airliner, technicians forgot to remove masking tape used to blank off ports and orifices. One two-inch square sliver of tape – painted white and well camouflaged – covered a static port that fed differential air pressure for altitude instruments to the flight crew. Upon take off, the pilot climbed to a certain flight level. His instruments gave false data and they strayed into the flight path of an incoming flight. By the time the co-pilot realised the error – his instruments were fed by a parallel system – disaster struck. A true story.

    It mostly starts with a ‘spark’ doesn’t it, Ian.

    Thank you for sharing another story of your time spent in India.



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