August 23, 2005 – New Orleans
A tropical depression which eventually became the Hurricane Katrina was formed over the Bahamas. The meterologists were soon able to warn the people that a major storm was on its way. By August 29, It was heavily pouring down and early in the morning the storm hit the New Orleans City. The city dwellers had their issues. The average elevation of the city is six feet below the sea level. Out of 1,12,000 people in the city only 50000 had their own transport and New Orleans was not really known for its public transport. Even when the Mayor announced a mandatory evacuation, only 80% left the city and 10% took shelter in relatively higher plane stadium called superdome and the rest waited at home for Katrina with prayers.
October 28, 2015 – Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
North East Monsoon entered Tamilnadu. By November 8, Low pressure developed in Bay of Bengal, which led to heavy rains. Most of the water storing lakes of Chennai and Cuddalore districts got full and few low lying areas were flooded. There was a respite from November 20 to November 29. The again, IMD, the official weather person of India issued a warning of heavy deluge. Nobody, including the administration took it seriously. No evacuation was ordered, nobody was taken to shelters and everybody was at their home because it was raining so heavily on December 1 which went on till December 3, leaving many dead and homeless
Storm and Flooding
By August 29, 2005, the floods started entering through the levees and canals surrounding New Orleans. Water seeped through the soil underneath. By 9 AM low lying areas were under water and people had to scamper to their roof tops and attics to save themselves leaving beyond their work and savings of lifetime. 80% of the city was under some kind of water.
By December 2, 2015 60% of the city was flooded. The Chembarambakkam lake was opened and it took the lives of people who had settled near the river banks. The areas like KK Nagar, Jafferkhanpet which deemed safe and middle of the city were one of the worst affected as they saw 9 feet deep water gushing in its street flooding the entire ground floors of many apartments. People who lived in ground floors lost all their things and people who lived in the new model apartments which have only parking in the ground floors lost all their vehicles.
The federal government headed by Bush was totally unprepared for the floods. The Emergency Management Agency took days together to even establish a base in New Orleans. The officials and the president were unaware of the extent of the damage the hurricane had done. There was no idea how much food, water and aids were needed.
The administration in Chennai was ill prepared and there was not much they could do. The abuse of city planning was the only reason for the floods even though this was the highest recorded rainfall in 100 years. But the disaster management team arrived on time. The Army was helping people in 10 feet water. Lot of people were airlifted. There was no delay for anything.
People had nowhere to go. There were limited supplies and people started breaking in to the super market which resulted in just chaos. There was no transport. The city leaders had turned their face on the poor and unassuming people and let them die. It was impossible to leave the city. People who tried to leave the city and walk over to nearest suburb of Gretina were threatened by police with shot guns.
The citizens set up the war rooms. Whatsapp, FB became the communication tool. From our neighboring state Karnataka, which is known for its power shortage now a days sent us idly batter for 3,00,000 idlies per meal for three days. Think about the current consumption only for that. There were limited break ins and that too in the suburbs which is not in Chennai jurisdiction at all. There were free buses plying in the city. Nobody had to pay anything to board a bus and go anywhere in the city. Adding to this, the drivers from neighboring states too braved the flood waters and brought their buses to take the stranded Chennai people to their state, FREE OF COST. But no able bodied youngster left the city. They were in the water, distributing food, water, clothes, mosquito repellents, blankets and ladies essentials.
Limited operations of flights started on September 13, 13 days after the deluge. Regular operations started from October.
Limited operations started from December 6. 4 days after the deluge. Regular operations started on December 12th.
American society is a different society than ours. Each man is an island or he forms a cluster of islands similar to him based of the materialistic success of people. He searches and finds the solution for his problems within himself. Society is irrelevant to most of them. They don’t talk about their problems to people they don’t know. Most of them became isolated and got into a very deep depression after Katrina. Most of them even struggle till today. I read an article about a lady who escaped to Boston and was living in a library and park with two big suit cases. Probably that was the only thing she had managed to save. She read and read the magazines and articles in the library. The article’s author was also a frequent visitor to the library. Once their eyes met. The author from India thought he could give a word or two of consolation. But the lady, with tears brimming her eyes didn’t want to get out of her island and passed him with a smile.
People found lot of friends. Strangers passing the food packets in hip deep water later went on to have a tea or coffee with each other after things got back to normal. We found people who came in to check on us every three hours. When the roads cleared, there were no honking, people smiled at each other and one traffic cop told, that was the peaceful day of his life. We will never be an island. Whatever force which may try to push us to our knees, we have people to carry us on their shoulders and push back the force.
Ten Years Later
One month later