Torrential rains that poured down on Chennai and its suburbs in early December triggered epic floods that devastated the city of nearly five million people. During the days that the city lay submerged, the state’s political leaders, known to rant and rave over even the silliest of issues, were thankfully silent and conspicuously absent from public view. This was very helpful, as without their ostentatious presence and divisive political spiel, ordinary citizens could come together as one and volunteer to rescue and assist the people afflicted by the flooding.
In a special report to The Times Kuwait, Mohammed Ibrahim, who was in Chennai at that time and personally experienced the devastation, gives a first-hand account of the days when his town lay inundated. Days when brown muddy water swirled all around, but drinkable water was unavailable; days when streets turned to raging rivers and dinghies and make-shift boats plied past submerged vehicles. Nights when without electricity everything turned pitch dark and the only rays of light came from a spirit of hope and the generosity of strangers…
Natural disasters are, indeed, the uninvited guests and they instill a strong sense of cautionin the lives of mankind, indicating that something is wrong in the way that we lead our lives.
In fact, Chennai rain is not a disaster but just seasonal monsoon that hit a hundred thousand lives so hard, because of blatant apathy and unpreparedness by the people that includes people's representatives, as well.
All the rain water harvesting and other similar plans by the Government were not implementedin all earnestness.
This heart rending situation has triggered serious debate on all the possible causes culminating in this tragedy that has taken a heavy toll on the city, it also undoubtedly proved that humanity is still alive and that helping hands often come from total strangers.
India can even win a war with this kind of unity and brotherhood... The part of our pledge "All Indians are my brothers and sisters" came alive during these days and weeks of hardship. Thousands of youth neglected their own comfort and volunteered all possible help, both physically and monetarily.
Here is a vivid picture of what happened...
Half way through his sleep, Lakshman felt the cool breeze that woke him up.Terrifying as it was,there was water inside the house and it was rising every second. He was thinking fast and woke up his family members.
He came out, the street was flooded. Electricity was gone, street lights gone, hopes gone. Some people walked towards the main road which was their only hope for survival. Some were flooded to the extreme while some streets were not; people stayed on those roads during the night and waited for the dawn.The heavy downpour on December 1 made not just oneLakshman to suffer; lakhs of Lakshmans suffered like him and many even worse.
The government's passive stance made the people lose their hopes on the bureaucracy. Youth unleashed their organizational abilities and supplied food packets,milk packets,water bottles and even boats for the needy people. Youngsters owned that week and it was these people who really saved the city.
Chennai came together as one during this situation. People helped each other, cared for each other and barriers like religion and language which separated them simply vanished. That was Chennai.
Yunus' help to a pregnant Hindu lady wowed everyone and that the baby girl born was named Yunus made every Chennaite proud. Imran crossed through knee deep flooded streets, to help his fellow beings and in the process sacrificed his own life, due to insect bite.Venkatesan from Ramapuram could not shift his handicapped sister and his old mother. They stayed together the whole night and were found dead the next morning.
Jain associations collected as much money as they could and saved the people of Vepery. Bangalore IT employees distributed relief materials to the needy Chennaites. One youth team organized many medical camps. Many volunteers were connected and many lives were saved, because of the power of social media, such as WhatsApp,Twitter and Facebook, which demonstrated its greatest use till date.
Thousands of vehicles were submerged in the water asflood waters submerged the ground floor and first floor of buildings in Mudichur, Thambaran and Velachery areas.Neyveli experienced a record 46cm rainfall and the surrounding villages were submerged for up to nearly 2 meters.Every year Cuddalore is hit by some natural calamity or the other. This year's was added to the long list. The 'tsunami' which came 11 years ago and the cyclone ‘Thane’ were the other major calamities.
Many of us have not heard of Kaatukollai village which has also faced the heavy rain. Unlike other big names like Chennai, Cuddalore and Neyveli, people do not have many concrete buildings to climb to the terrace and survive. Some innocent people climbed to the top of their huts,hoping that it would save them. Water washed away the hutsalong with the people. Nine of them lost their lives.
Agriculture was also hit in a big way;flooded fields will not yield the farmers money any time soon and agricultural laborers are starving as they have no work.
Many individuals, groups and organizations rose to the occasion and helped the flood victims, by distributing basic needs, includingfood,clothes and utensils.Print and Electronic media also helped many people. Several NGOs have now beguncharting outlong-term rehabilitation plans for the affected people, to equip them to work and earn and to get them back to their normal lives.
Thousands of people have lost their near and dear ones, homes and their belongings but the one thing that keeps them going is their spirit ofhope and the boundless benevolence of strangers. Let us join our hands in this herculean task of rebuilding; let us demonstrateour love and concern for these devastated people; let usrekindle their hopes and promise them a better tomorrow.
Written by Sivasankar S.S. Narration and pictures by Mohammed Ibrahim
Mr. Ibrahim can be contacted at: Ibrahimpdkt@gmail.com