By V. Jagannathan
Chennai, Dec 7 (IANS) The torrential rains and floods not only swamped Chennai and its suburbs but also turned upside down the lives of millions who have suffered huge financial loss and costs, residents said.
The loss and costs cut across class barriers — whether corporate executives or domestic maid servants — which only proves that water is a great leveller.
However, the survivors are grateful to the almighty as they are alive to tell their individual story.
“But for our neighbours who alerted us about water entering our apartment complex and the houses, we might have suffered a watery grave,” Priya Batra, an executive at GRT Hotels and Resorts, told IANS.
“Early in the morning around 4 a.m. our neighbours rang our bell and alerted us about water entering the ground floor apartments in our block. We hurriedly shifted to our first floor neighbour’s,” Batra said.
Batra lives at Kotturpuram, one of the posh localities here.
To their horror water from the nearby canal gushed in fast and the current was so swift that it even pushed aside several cars before submerging them totally.
“There was nearly 15 ft of water. All the seven apartments on the ground floor were flooded with gutter water,” she said.
“All the consumer durables — television set, refrigerator, washing machine, computers, car, entire clothing, furniture, utensils, gas stoves, beds and others — were damaged,” she said.
“My total financial loss will not be less than Rs.10 lakh. Except my car, nothing else has been insured. I have to start from scratch all over again,” Batra said.
More than 15 people who had sought refuge at the first floor apartment were rescued by the NDRF by breaking open a bathroom ventilator through which Batra and others managed to squeeze themselves out.
“I now live at my friend’s place wearing borrowed clothes,” she said.
According to her, an auto-rickshaw driver charged her just Rs.120 to take her family comprising her son and aged mother to T. Nagar.
“While every section of society is contributing to help the people in distress it is only the airlines that are profiteering on people’s misery,” she said.
Batra is yet to go back to her apartment as it is still under dirty slush which needs to be cleared first.
“If have to see the documents that have been washed away. It is going to be a big task to get their duplicates,” Batra added.
On the other end of the social spectrum is Murugamma, a domestic maid servant residing in Semmencherry, a Chennai suburb.
“Lake water entered our home last week and damaged the television set and furniture. We also lost our ration card. We sought refuge at our neighbour’s place on the first floor,” Murugamma told IANS.
“There is no power at our locality. While the water level has gone down a bit — from chest level to hip level, we are spending sleepless nights as there are rumours of the lake breaching its bank,” she said.
Adding to the woes are snakes and other reptiles that have sought refuge in ground-floor apartments.
According to Geetha Mohandas, working in a software company here, and a resident of Mudichur, the water level touched six feet in the street on which she lives.
“We carried our two young children on our shoulders to reach a safer place. At least 16 people lived in a small place during the crisis period,” she told IANS.
“The peculiar sound made by alarmed dogs and cats at night also acts on the nerves,” she said.
According to her, Anankaputtur is one of the localities that have been affected severely in the floods. In one locality, local youths rescued the inmates at an old age home.
“I pray to God that the occupants of the houses submerged under water managed to vacate their place before the flooding,” she said.
“There are areas where the water level is still very high and they can be reached only by boats in Mudichur area. I wish the navy and other rescue teams reach those places with sufficient relief material,” Mohandas said.
These are only representative samples of the pain and suffering of the several million in this city and neighbouring flood-affected districts as they struggle to restore normalcy.
(V. Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected])