Dear all,

we had the chance to talk to someone who was really active there, as being originally from the Chennai area. Now she engaged as a volunteer coordinator and was happy to write some lines so that you get an idea of what really happened in Chennai – from her perspective:

Chennai remains positive amidst disaster

Chennai is not just my hometown but it is an emotion with more than 6.5 million population. It is the capital city of Tamil Nadu in Southern India. The past days have been traumatizing being several thousands of miles away from home and to watch the situation unfold on social media about the torrential downpour in 125 years which has devastated Chennai city and environs apart from Cuddalore, Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and parts of Andhra Pradesh for the past few weeks with flooding and waterlogging. The rains still continue in the southern parts of Tamil Nadu with short but heavy downpours in Chennai too as I write this article. The city recorded on certain days more than 300 mm rainfall which left more than 300 people dead and the toll is still rising. But the spirits of the people and city did not die with nameless and faceless people coming forward to help the city survive during its dark days. Social media has played a vital role in the rescue operations as mobile network was jammed during the critical period for 4-5 days and numbers of volunteers where obtained online through Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp and messages were flowing back and forth to make the chain work.

There was no communication possible with family and friends as the city became an island as power was shut down completely to reduce the deaths due to electrocution. Landlines became useless as the people had to move out of their abode to seek shelter in higher areas. The road, rail and air network was crippled due to the heavy deluge which caused the roads to cave in and bridges cracked while tracks and runways had more than six feet water. Cars and bikes drifted away with the current of the water and people are still on the lookout for their vehicles. I never imagined my city will look like Venice with boats deployed to take people to safety. Army, Navy and NDRF were called in but they could not reach the city immediately as the transportation networks were blocked but it was heartening to hear many stories about pregnant women rescued and a doctor doing three days continuous shift to deliver around 13 babies and so on. These floods have rendered 1.2 million people homeless with gushing waters washing away goods and houses near the rivers, dams and lakes. Chembarambakkam dam had to release 30,000 cusecs per second on days of heavy rainfall to prevent it from cracking and causing further damage.

People trying to save their lives in the floods

Source: http://images.nzz.ch/eos/v2/image/view/940/940/fullSize/inset/5698f026/1.18657595/1449225155/chennai-2-001.jpg

One cousin told me that her entire ground floor part of the house was sunken in water and they could see snakes in the water and it was really difficult with children in the house and toilets not functioning due to sewage blocks and no food or water nor milk in many cases. Another friend shared a sad story about her neighbors relative dying and they had to live with the corpse for more than 3 days as the building was flooded until the first floor. She also mentioned they watched bodies floating in the water and in one particular area which was worst affected with almost ten feet water, once the water drained the road was lined with bodies and they were requesting mentally strong volunteers to venture in that zone to help the people beyond. The cremation grounds have long queues of people waiting to give their loved ones a decent farewell.

A recap from a friend who also volunteered during the floods

In a nutshell our city is bouncing back to normalcy but the road to recovery seems to be a very long journey. The last 3 days has been a life changing experience for many of us but many incredible things happened during the floods which bring out positivity and hope. The volunteers whose numbers were fortunately working were ever patient to listen to our requests and to wade through 4-5 feet water to reach out to the needy and provide food, drinking water and medicine which was the need of the hour. Every inequality in terms of religion, caste, status, gender, age was broken. A good number of people who were rescued were still seen smiling when they got onto the rescue boat. Men rescue workers boldly voiced out support and concern for women as they requested for relief materials like sanitary napkins, clothes for women who were stranded.
If someone took a route and found that it was risky, they immediately notified everyone around them and ensured that others don’t make the same mistake.
Youngsters were seen helping elders evacuate by carrying their stretchers and wheel chairs.
Many cows, dogs and cats were rescued by common people who have never raised pets before.
A good number of auto men were ready to make a trip for rescue and relief work without charging a penny. Without hesitation people offered help when someone was battling for life. Most of them had no prior experience in rescue work.
Many good souls came forward and cooked for hundreds of people.
A lot of owners gave their cars, trucks and man power for rescue work.
People who were stranded shared their tiny meal with every family that were stranded along with them. Many reporters and media persons offered their vans/vehicles for charging mobile phones of people who were stranded so that they could get in touch with their family.
Most of the people who set out to help spent their own money for service and they did not belong to any political party. This experience will stay with us for a lifetime. Our children will learn from this example that we have set for them. We will bounce back stronger than ever!!

City district under water

Source: http://images.financialexpress.com/2015/12/chennai-rains-7801.jpg

The spirit of Chennaites is something to learn from with even our army commenting that never in any disastrous situation in the country have they seen volunteers outnumbering the victims. The volunteers are the reason behind most NRI persons families and friends being saved and taken care off for the past few days. I am writing this message with hope and prayer that we can give back something to the selfless community who has worked day and night to save countless lives and help them in continuing the good work. The rehabilitation measures have begun in most areas with medical camps being set up in epidemic prone areas by NGO workers and volunteers. Cleaning measures have begun in most areas with fungus being the main issue due to water stagnation. Chennai survives amidst the chaos and will rise stronger and this could not have been possible without humane souls and we have shown the world humanity still exists and intolerance is not an issue for us. Please come forward to help us rebuild our lives and homes.