Well before the city went to sleep on Tuesday night, the water began to draw up to their doorsteps. And as the night drew on, any hope that it wouldn’t enter homes or throw their lives out of array disappeared as quickly as the charge on their 4G enabled smartphones. But even at its lowest (and deepest) hour, the city managed to stay afloat. This is what Chennaiites did when the city went under, and stayed there...
Warring over Water Cans
When your city is submerged under more water than imaginable, it is a tragedy that the one thing that everyone is fighting over is — you guessed it — water. Pure, mineral, UV-treated, any kind really. With water filters being nullified by the lack of power, people rushed to shops in droves and began to hustle grocers for water cans aplenty. Some smart shop owners decided to make the most of it and hiked prices past the `200 mark and handed the can to the highest bidders
Stockpiling up on Sweets
Most hotels didn’t even bother taking a stab at serving food, staff crunch being the obvious reason. But with people looking for any and every essential food commodity they could get their hands on, the bakeries that opened shop drew them like flies. After packaged food and biscuit packets flew off the shelves, they turned their attention to everything else that was left. From sweets to slightly stale pastries, absolutely every bit of food that people could get their hands on were sold out quickly.
Where Have All the Signals Gone?
How far are you willing to go to stay connected? With mobile networks down almost everywhere because generators that kept mobile towers chugging ran dry, people went wading through the floods in hope of sighting a single signal bar on their smartphones. So desperate was a man to get in touch with his loved ones in Bengaluru, that he waded 300 metres through hip deep water to flag down a driving motorist. The reason? To borrow his working mobile phone. Wherever towers were working, small crowds of people glued to their phones could be seen. Whether they replenished the diesel reserves is still a mystery.
Bridge over Watered Trouble
In areas like Choolaimedu and even Maduravoyal, the thumb rule when the water level starts rising is get your car to higher ground — which is, inevitably, the bridge. Unfortunately for most people who managed that smart piece of parking, the overflowing of the Cooum and Adyar rivers led to water breaching the surface of the otherwise high bridges at Choolaimedu, Saidapet and several other places, leaving the cars anything but high and dry. One thing that most of the floating cars were good for is that people who desperately needed to go across managed to hop from bonnet to bumper to stay out of the water.
Spa Time for our Oxen Brethren
Suffice to say that everybody is sick of water by this point. Except the buffaloes, who are otherwise relegated to watching their step every time they want to do something as small as crossing the road in this bust, busy city. In areas where people quickly got out with minimal belongings because the water level was rising at an alarming pace, the buffaloes took some time to begin their own evacuation process. With even the smallest of vacant plots resembling the temple tanks of yore, most of them settled into the sludgy water and made a spa day of it.
Spooked by Floating Cars
You’d think that cops who have braved neck-deep water, the possibility of snakes swimming around their ankles and live wires would be afraid of no man or machine. And yet, it was a combination of two of those very things that scared a possee of cops who were scouting out the flooded Mogappair area. With almost everybody either evacuated or safely perched on upper floors, the cops were leaving when they noticed an SUV with all lights on moving further into the flood. They whistled, gestured, cursed even but could not attract the attention of the dark shape in the driver’s seat. When they quickly caught up with the floating car, they found that there was no one inside — just a couple of bags and a light that hadnt been switched off with due diligence.
Wheelchair-ing it to the Wedding Hall
After more than four feet of water entered Chrompet Government Hospital, its out-patient unit was summarily shifted to a marriage hall on GST Road, next to the hospital. More than 25 patients have been shifted to other government hospitals in the city. Government Medical College Hospitals in Chennai had to handle the regular and emergency care in the hospital with trainee doctors as most of the duty doctors were stranded in floods and could not reach to the hospital. Global Hospital in Perumbakkam, which was worst affected in floods had sought help from the NDRF and the Army to get their critical patients out. The hospital was also facing the threat of running short of power supply as its generator room was flooded.
No Cruise Control Under Water
Planes have been known to land on practically any kind of surface in extreme climates. But the Chennai Airport is currently not one of those zones. With over two feet of water engulfing the Airport and the river that flows under their runway adding to the water level, the people at the airport had no option but to vacate the Air Traffic Control tower and shut down the Navigation Antennae that sit smack in the middle of the tarmac. With no voice in the ear, the eyes in the skies decided against setting down at the airport, opting to wait until they fixed their drainage woes.
Courting Low Attendance for Justice
Only about 10 percent of the people who throng the Madras High Court managed to wade through the waters and make it on time. Though there were quite a few requests to close the courts on Wednesday, cases were lined up and it was business as not-quite-usual. One of the cases that came up was Traffic Ramaswamy’s request to ameliorate the sufferings of the people. The bench shot back, “What can the government do. It is a natural calamity.” The Chief Justice advised him not to politicize the issue and closed the matter with a direction to him not to raise such issues till normalcy returned.