Chennai during the month of December seems to be a night mare ! Consecutively for the second time Chennai has faced yet another natural calamity - Cyclone Vardah, followed by the floods in Chennai last December (2015).
Having faced the floods previously and predicting the cyclone well in advance the city was ready with all precautionary measures. People were warned not to leave homes, schools and colleges declared holiday and even office goers were advised to work from home ! Weather reports scared us as the winds would lash at a speed of 100 km/hr and it was sure that we will lose power, mobile signals by then.
Dec 12, 2016 - Around 11 AM the winds were blowing unusually bringing some moderate rains. We tried our best to capture these just from our balcony and terrace but the winds were so strong that we couldn’t stand still. I was literally shivering due to the chilling winds that I ran inside my house and shut the door. Around 1.30 PM is when the cyclone was expected to touch the peak - 100 km/hr speed and it did ! The howling sound was even more scary and the winds were pushing down all the trees outside. Our’s neighbour’s tree uprooted and fell on their car shed, crashing their Honda City flat. The corporation help lines weren't reachable and while we were still trying to reach for help we lose our signals completely. Nothing could be done by then and they were locked inside their house. No power, no water and no mobile network - we totally lost connection with the outside world. As it gets darker as early as 5.30 PM, the winds slowed down a bit but the rains didn't stop. It was pitch dark outside and we had nothing to do and couldn’t move out of the house yet. We just managed with our fully charged phones and laptops for light. The water stored would help us till morning, so I went to bed expecting the power to be back soon.
Dec 13,2016 - I got up a bit early and rushed out only to see a totally devastated neighbourhood !! We live in a gated community (a micro city in itself) that is green - full of trees and plants. Almost 50% of the trees were uprooted and 25% of the people’s car shed was crashed under a tree. I took a stroll all the way and another neighbour had lost a car too that got stuck under a huge tree ! All of a sudden it looked like there was too much of light coming in and yes all these trees on the ground exposed us to a painfully sunny morning. At about 7.30 AM, people got working in cutting down the trees and paving way for those who were stuck inside their homes. Power and phone signals haven’t been resumed yet. We decided to go out and see the condition outside our community. People with generators and power back ups were updating us on how the city was hit with the cyclone. The newspapers shared few scary pictures too - a huge bus that toppled during the winds, a car that was parked toppled over the road barricade, a couple of people who just escaped from a falling tree ! I was looking all over the papers with crossed fingers to not see any death count. Unfortunately, it reported a death count of 3 already !! It also read that the power will be resumed by evening. We reached the main road around 11 AM, our phone signals were fluctuating. I tried calling the close family and friends to check if they were all fine. A few of them still weren’t reachable. The power wasn’t back yet and the signals too !
Dec 14, 2016 - It was the second day after the cyclone and situation remains the same. Schools haven’t reopened yet and we are still worried about water supply. ATMs and the card swiping machines aren’t working anywhere. Sadly, this demonitisation have restricted the cash flow big time and the cash in hand would only last another day !!
Our house help turns up today and her story is even more saddening. Her 18 yr old nephew who is physically challenged had to be carried and shifted in the heavy winds to her house as the boy’s house was filled with rain water. She said their roof flew away due to the lashing winds. She sounded totally help less saying it hasn’t been even an year since they fixed the damage caused by the floods. I asked if she would need some cash and I could see a sigh of relief on her face. Only then I remembered I don’t have much cash in hand. I apologised to her shamelessly.
Dec 15, 2016 - We are getting water supply for few hrs in the morning every day and we rush to finish our work by then. Power and phone signals are yet to resume. We again drove till the main road to see the condition of the city. The cut down trees were still lying on the pavements and are yet to be cleared. People have started going to work though. We parked our cars wherever we got signals and called our family and friends and shared the status.
- Intermittent electricity was supplied only to a (main) part of the city, when the news said 50% of the city got the power back.
- News read that the city is all set for the usual routine and the schools will reopen today. I found it totally stupid as all the 4 schools in and around my house still remains closed. The trees are yet to be cleared and power yet to be resumed ! The schools were seeking volunteers to deal with all that. When I checked with friends in other parts of the city, they shared the same grief.
For once I felt that news channels and the government are blind.
The city has never taken so much time to recover, in spite of all rescue teams who arrived well in advance. Last year it was really quick !
The lost greenery has to be replaced. The corporation workers and volunteers who worked day and night to clear the roads have to be recognised. We, shouldering a bit more of responsibilities and promising a better ecosystem to the next gen, have a long way to go !!