CHENNAI: Good samaritans driving down from cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad are being constantly fed information via city-based volunteer groups on the status of relief work in Chennai. But one resounding message that City Express was told has been getting louder is: Be careful where you stop. You might get mobbed.
Despite the rains having stopped, the overwhelming need for rehabilitation in parts of the city has left many desperate to provide for their families. And this poses a rather scary thought for those not familiar with our town and streets.
“We arrived in Chennai at 6am on Tuesday,” says IT professional Shoury Sayala, who drove down from Hyderabad to help out. But after finding a ‘safe zone’ on a residential street near Koyambedu, he tells us, “We stayed there till noon trying to reach the police and army for protection, and locate people in the areas we are headed to, who would help in case we ran into trouble.”
Like this group, volunteers from other cities who travel down in large trucks — often bearing a sign reading ‘Flood Relief’ in blocked letters on the windshield — are quite easy to recognise. To stay under the radar, Kiran Kamaraju, another volunteer from Hyderabad, says, “We’ve been advised to keep our truck of supplies in one place and then branch out our distribution using small cars.” However, with neither time nor adequate knowledge of the city, he tells us, “We’ve decided to stick to our truck and hope that we manage to complete our work before everyone returns to their offices in a day or two.”
Other worries volunteers have are the branding of their supplies with political stickers, and individuals grabbing multiple packages in order to sell them. These fears are added to by hearsay and rumours that do the rounds on Whatsapp groups, through which a good number of relief volunteers communicate.
While the task has become daunting to some, others who have driven for over 10 hours to get here seem unfazed. A volunteer from Bengaluru says, “At the end of the day, all we want is for our supplies to reach the right people, so hopefully we’ll get the job done.”