Friday, 26 February 2016

Indcan Donation Drive for Chennai Flood Relief - A report by Vignesh V.S.

Chennai received 1,049 mm of rainfall in November, the highest recorded since November 1918. This spell of heavy rains had caused a lot of suffering to the city dwellers and inundated many parts of the city. They had thought the worst was over but little did they know that it was yet to come. A new low pressure system developed on 30th November, bringing 49cm of rain in 24 hours on December 1. Rains with such fury and intensity broke critical communication and transportation lines. All essential electricity, telephone, cellular, internet lines were disrupted. Already crippled city came to a standstill and this became a nightmare for the 4.5 million residents of the city. Chennai International airport was completely closed for three days between December 2 to 5. The rains claimed nearly 300 lives. Chennai was officially declared a disaster area on the evening of December 2. Many tens of thousand families had their houses flooded for up to 7 feet water. Having lost the ability to stay in their homes, they moved to elevated neighborhoods and were scrambling for survival. Government machinery was slow and small to tackle this massive disaster. Hence dwellers of the city sprang up to action doing whatever they could, to help the needy. Much of the effort was concentrated on providing immediate relief like shelter, food and water. After the water levels receded, effort was also taken to restore the lives of the people who were left in shambles.

Indcan, being a very strong community of Indians living in Canada, helped at this time of crisis. A total CAD $1695 (Rs.80,000) was quickly collected and sent promptly to two groups (known to me personally) who were involved in relief efforts on ground in Chennai. One group focused on cooking food and providing fresh water to those displaced from their home. This effort was concentrated near the Perungalathur area which is a suburb near Chennai. This neighborhood lies near Chembarambakkam lake which is the main source of drinking water for the city of Chennai. This lake overflowed which primarily caused flooding in the Cooum river that runs through heart of Chennai. Hundreds of families in the low lying areas of Perungalathur had taken refuge in first and second floor of houses in elevated regions. They were out of cooking supplies and drinking water as their houses got submerged in water. This group of twenty five members undertook the effort of cooking food, procuring fresh water and delivering to them. Rs.20,000 was utilized towards this purpose of procuring vegetables, rice, water bottles and other groceries. This effort went on for about eight days between December 2 to December 9. This sum of money has helped provide 300 people approximately for two meals on these days.

After water had receded, the affected families suffered further financial loses in having to restore damaged houses and furniture etc. This loss was not just restricted to individual families, but also to public properties like schools, parks, public buildings etc. The Government estimated a loss of $3 billion to the city. In one such instance, a high school in Ambattur in Chennai suffered huge loses when its classrooms were submerged with 3 feet water in the first week of December.

The stagnating water damaged the wooden desks, benches, cabinets and other school properties. Another group of volunteers (friends of mine) were helping in post flood relief efforts in that area. From the remaining sum of Rs.60,000, Rs.50,000 was utilized towards buying new steel desks, tables, cabinets, etc. for the school classrooms. The remaining Rs.10,000 was spent on purchasing text books, notepads, and other essential stationery items to more than 500 students of the school. This part of contribution has helped the students of the school sit on desks instead of sitting on the cement floor. Pictures from the distribution event are below.

As it is said, you can take an Indian out of India, but not India out of an Indian. Indcan is a true example of one such strong community of Indians residing outside India who contributed generously at the time of need. The following people (in no particular order) contributed generously towards the cause of providing relief measures and assistance for the affected.

I want to personally thank the above people who donated generously and to Indcan for building such a strong network of friends. Your help has directly helped a few hundred people of Perungalathur suburb and has enabled the students of Ambattur high school continue their education after such damage and destruction due to flooding.