Today, ten years later, Chennai faces the same onslaught of water. It seems weird that at a time when farmers are committing suicide in Karnataka and Maharashtra, because of drought faced, people are dying in coastal Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh due to floods. Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Water, water everywhere, every drop is out to kill me. In the last decade, Mumbai has shut down for atleast one day, every year, in June, July or August due to the rains. Chennai has experienced rains in two sets this winter. One was in November, and one, in December. I’m gonna treat these two as separate instances and then draw a conclusion between two two.
Rains struck Madras in November 2015. It was heavy, taking the city by shock [I refrain from using the word surprise here]. Nobody expected these kinds of rains. Around 180 people died, the Central Government sanctioned ₹900crore. Chennai Police officers and Chennai Corporation workers worked tirelessly, day-and-night to help ease the situation. Ola, offered boats to those stranded, while UrbanClap announced free pest-control and OYO Rooms offered rooms ar discounted rates to shelter those who were stranded. 200 people lost their lives in this tragic incident.
Rains struck Madras on 1st of December. This time, Nature, really came down on the city like hell. 200 people lost their lives. The Army, Navy, Air Force and National Disaster Response Force [NDRF] were deployed in no time. Water levels reached the first floor in several localities, the Adyar and Cooum were overflowing, indundating the Saidapet, while the Palar was inundating the East Coast Road near Kalpakkam. To help the issue, CMRL continued operations of the Chennai Metro throughout the night. Madras Christian College, SRM University, Sathyam Cinema, Forum Mall Velacheri, among others offered shelter to those stranded. People were offering shelter and publicly posted this along with their phone numbers on Twitter and Facebook. The good folks at Twitter India were busy retweeting people who added #ChennaiRains to their tweets. Some good Samaritans like Harshita Murali, compiled a list of whom people could get in touch with if they were in Trouble. My friend and fellow OpenStreetMaps geek Arun Ganesh came up with a Crowd-Sourced Map that enabled people to report which areas were flooded, in order to help coordinate rescue and relief efforts. One Hotelier even offered rooms outside of Madras on a Pay-for-Food basis.
As always, our national media hasn’t bothered. They’re more bothered about ‘Intolerance’. They’ll cover Paris, but not Madras. As I had stated earlier; for our media:
- Floods in Madras, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coastal Andhra Pradesh: Don’t care, South India isn’t important.
- Floods in Bombay: Failure of BJP and Shiv Sena in the MCGM.
- Floods in an NDA state: Corruption.
- Floods in a non NDA state: Nature’s Fury.
- Floods in Delhi: National Calamity.
Of course, the media did eventually cover it, but it was pathetic. The Hindu tried to pass off pictures of a 2013 deluge inside Delhi Airport as Chennai Airport while CNN-IBN reportedly abused the #ChennaiRainsHelp hashtag with their spammy news.
NDTV went a level higher stating that Chennai Airport is doomed to suffer because its runway is built on a river. I don’t know where these retards and morons studied English and Journalism from, because the runway is not ON a river, but a bridge built OVER the Adayar river. Chennai is not the only city in the world to have done this. The taxiway at Mumbai Airport was extended across the Mithi river in the form of a bridge too. This is common abroad as well.
Like always, Social Media has always been the most useful. Chennaiites, have helped each other by offering shelter, food, and what not. People are sharing addresses and phone numbers on email to hep each other find shelter and get help.
At the state level, Police, Fire and Municipal officers are doing their level best to coordinate rescue efforts. MTC and CMRL are running services as much as possible. At the central level, the Armed Forces and NDRF have been deployed. Indian Railways has offered all possible help as well. BSNL is offering free local and STD calls, free SMS, additional 100mb free data for Mobile and Landline users, Rent Rebate for 7 days and an extension of billing cycles by a fortnight. The Central government is doing a lot, Karnataka donated ₹5crore, which TN rejected. Apparently AIADMK workers are now stopping relief material entering to stick Amma stickers on them.
Ola, OYO, and other private companies have shown their humanitarian side, while Sathyam Cinemas, Forum Mall, SRM University et al have opened their doors for the stranded. Zomato is offering food packets as well.
I read about a week ago, about a person who was criticising Ola and Uber, calling the Ola boats a publicity stunt. He claimed that if Ola and Uber had operated services during the floods people would not be stranded. He also stated that MTC drivers, should be thanked for continuing thru the downpour. I believe this is a bit harsh. If it rains, smaller cars would would get inundated. Back in 2005, people in Bombay died because their cars were inundated and the ACs spewed toxic fumes or their doors and power windows got jammed. BEST buses, especially Double Deckers were saviours back then.
Some skeptics, including journalist Sagarika Ghose and IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt chose to politicise/communalise the issue with talk of Hindu-Muslim and Cows. I guess unless they are stranded in the rains themselves, they will not learn.
What can you do, if you are stuck, or you can offer support?
- Contribute to Arun’s map above if you can.
- Coordinate with Harshita [linked above] on Twitter or Medium and share details.
- Do not forward images on Whatsapp. Last week, some News Channels were showing images of a flooded city in China, claiming it was Chennai.
- Contribute to the Zomato fund, or some other cause. There are people donating Power Banks to Chennaiites.
- Stay indoors, stay safe. You do not know what can hit you, bite you, suck you in.
- AVOID RUMOUR MONGERING and DO NOT PANIC OR CAUSE PANIC.
- If you are on Twitter, and you have something to share, use #ChennaiRains, #ChennaiRainsHelp and tag @TwitterIndia or @The_Hindu in it.
What can we learn from this?
- Every city needs to be prepared for such incidents. A strong Disaster Response team needs to be set up at a local level.
- Coastal cities, namely Chennai, Mumbai, Mangalore, whole of Goa, Kerala, Vijayawada, Puduchery need to get together and find new ways to pump out storm water.
- Interlinking of Rivers must be taken a lot more seriously now.
- This must be a wake-up call for illegal, irregular, unathourised constructions. Chennai would not have been affected to this level if it hadn’t been for the screw-ups done by the Corporation of Chennai, Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and Directorate of Town Planning.
- Lakes and river beds must be cleaned, desilted.
- Storm water drains need to be redesigned.
Having experienced the Floods of 26th July 2005, I know how it feels to be stuck in the rains. Be brave Chennai, if Mumbai could survive, so can you.
- The NHAI has suspended Toll Collection in Tamil Nadu till the 11th of December to allow free movement of vehicles.
- Fellow Mapper Srinivas has shared this: Disaster Management Plans, Master Plans, Maps, and other data useful for Chennai.
- MTC is offering free service to all passengers till 8th of December.
- Practo has published a Verified list of Doctors who can be contacted right now.
- ISRO Bhuvan has an Android App to report Flood Details. This is a link to the mail I received today.
- Newsd has started a campaign to raise ₹5,00,000 for relief funds. You can contribute by clicking here.
- TheNewsMinute has started a campaign to raise ₹5,00,000 for relief funds. You can contribute by clicking here.
- Microsoft is offering free International Skype calls to Tamil Nadu.
- The Ministry of Finance announced that all Public and Private banks in flood-hit areas would be operational on Sunday.
- IT Giant Cognizant has committed ₹260crore to help Chennai.
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