Thursday, 10 December 2015

Chennai Deluge!

The first few days of December 2015 in Chennai could be probably best worst described in two words – ‘Mercilessly Devastating’. Never before in the life of any of the average Chennaite has such a flood of this magnitude occurred. It is widely reported that Chennai has never received such heavy rains in a 100 years. Though Chennai is no stranger to that usual metropolitan flooding which usually recedes within a day at the most, this year, the flooding rose to new heights! A very disastrous one at that too! Disastrous to the extent that several localities in Chennai, especially the suburban areas were inundated to ‘scary’ levels – thereby producing a not-so-comical meme describing Chennai as the Venice of India.

The flooding is owed to the torrential rains which in turn lead to the outflows from the city’s water-bodies like the Chembarakkam lake. And when this happened, the city’s urban planning was put to test and remarkably failed. The so-called realty havens in the city like Velachery, Manapakkam and the famous OMR (Old Mahabalipuram Road or the I.T corridor) etc were reportedly the most hit. All the above mentioned areas were built on wetlands, marshes. In contrast, some old Chennai areas like Mylapore, George Town etc fared better in this flood crisis that had very good planning. There is no use in blaming anyone in particular. Everyone has a say in this and are responsible for the ongoing crisis. Climate change is also linked to this flood, seeing that Tamil Nadu received a ridiculous rain surplus when the rest of India had a deficit – in one word a glaring ‘Irregularity’. 

After last week’s nightmare that was characterised by complete power outage for as long as a week in some areas, network disruption for more than 4 days, public transportation hassles due to water logged roads, Chennai Airport and Central shutdown for 3 days, Chennai is slowly but surely getting back on its feet. By Monday this week, all transport services were restored. 

My area i.e a single stretch of main road and buildings on either side was saved from inundation. But the Adyar river that had massively flooded was hardly 500 metres away. It is still unthinkable that water had actually grazed the bridge roads. The police had barricaded it and not allowed people to watch. One popular city hospital (2 minutes from my house), which was unfortunately (or foolishly) built on the lower banks failed to escape the wrath of the raging waters. With water flooding more than 2 floors and the critical patients shifted to top floors, one would have thought they were safe. But alas this problem coupled with power shutdown (apparently they did not have adequate and exclusive generators), took away the lives of some people. All the relatives of these patients suffered mental agony and shock when they were asked to collect the bodies from the government general hospital. Apart from this, there were some people who were stranded in the nearby IT parks for a day or two.

The main road that I mentioned above happens to be an important highway and therefore it was incredulous, when I saw on the morning of December 2nd, that it did not look anything like a highway. Moreover, it looked like a temporary parking lot. Indeed, I was reminded of a scene out of Walking Dead vividly! Ofcourse, there was also people around instead zombies. 

But it definitely looked like a scene out of a post-apocalyptic movie. I don’t know why I was reminded by that. Though I knew it would definitely not happen, one tiny part of my mind did come up with far-fetched imagery of Chennai submerging completely. Cargo trucks and tempo travellers were parked in large numbers. People were walking on the road in groups, apparently lost or shifting from their homes. All shops and restaurants closed their shutters. The scene remained the same next day except by then relief trucks with boats start arriving. Rescue missions had begun that day. My cousin brother along with his wife, made a good decision to come to our house, after their locality was under danger of more flooding. The next day, Friday, we heard army choppers flying. It was becoming more hopeful by the end of the week. Shops had also started functioning. Ofcourse, I am talking about only my locality. The rest of Chennai, in large parts, was still hampered by problems. 

We went through three nights without electricity. Suddenly the world seemed even darker and quieter. During the nights, we talked amongst ourselves. It was only then I realised with panic how fast time had passed away and how seemingly fast I have grown. I had almost forgotten that there was a thing called FM radio. There was still more than half juice in my mobile. From the dozen radio stations, only in one, RJs were constantly giving updates and acting as the Samaritan middlemen by giving SOS shout-outs. Rain was still playing a cruel game against us. The power was only restored on Saturday evening. When we switched on the television for the news, we were shocked by their coverage. The magnitude of the flood actually hit us only then. It is an irony and a slight shame that Chennai, known for its water scarcity, had waste water running on the roads. North Chennai is still in a very bad shape. 

Yet, the worst has definitely passed now. Sunshine is returning after many (many in Chennai terms) days. Water is receding back steadily. Electricity is back, Communication is back, Transportation is back – Life is back and moving! There are sure, a lot of takeaways from this cruel crisis. It is in us whether we take them to heart and do whatever is needed to stop such a disaster to happen again. We cannot pretend anymore to be ignorant of the obvious loopholes that very much aggravated the problem, which it should not have, normally. And it is not like it is the first lesson (Uttarakhand 2013). I cannot help but think that there are more such shocking events about to occur. No use in lamenting then! We must not forget that nothing can overcome the wrath of Nature if we abuse it continuously. 
P.S: In this time of crisis, there was a lot of love in the air and the innate human spirit of helping came into being when the rest of the country, celebrities and the common man himself readily came forward to volunteer in relief operations.


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  2. Mother Nature sent us a strong message "BE PREPARED" and "HELP EACH OTHER". Well written Akash. :)

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