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Wednesday: Chennai Drowning; Surviving

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Rain is the conqueror, the equaliser. Chennai has been hit hard, and though Chennai is fighting, that which isn’t flooded is damp with tears. Over 4,00,000 people displaced. Millions of heart-wrenching stories. At the time of publishing, 450 elderly citizens are waiting in an old age home in Parantiputhur. Many of them bedridden, all of them hungry. Surrounded by 2.5 kilometers of water. Without water to wash. It’s a humbling, shaming day. A day without dignity. A day of utter pain.

“Thank you ma, thank you,” the man at the other end says. I’ve assured him that help is on the way. It’s been two hours since we spoke, and help is still on the way. This is not the time to reflect, but to brace ourselves for what the next four days will bring. For the power cuts, for grief and death, stagnant water, disease and distress.

Twitter is alive with common, precious humanity. But, already, here’s the rub. Helplines, almost all helplines, are constantly busy. Some have no network. Some of those needing help no longer have network.

We’ll know soon enough how much technology helped, and how we could have used it differently. Because helplines are still one person at a time. And the number of stranded people is in thousands. And once power cuts take over, and batteries run out, we’ll have to be more inventive in how we reach out.

Unfortunately for those praying for a letup and a sunny day tomorrow, the rain isn’t stopping anytime soon.

Disaster relief forces are rushing into the city, even as local doctors make themselves available over phone:

Meanwhile, as expected, all flights have been cancelled, tickets refunded, and travel out of the city, nearly impossible.

There’s likely to be massive power problems soon, and phone connectivity may be nonexistent. But for now, there’s some relief as telecom companies make it a little easier for people to survive.

And, rescue efforts continue:

 

We don’t know when this standstill will end. But Chennai is still standing. Albeit shakily.

*****

Feature Image Courtesy: PTI

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