'No emergency kits, no stock dry food and no warning': Kerala floods survivor recounts the devastation

Editor's note: This article is a first-person account of the devastation caused by the floods in Kerala, which have claimed over 320 lives till now.

"Come upstairs and sleep there. I can't leave you alone this night." I always thought of my mother as an anxious person. Hence, when the rainfall started to get strong at around midnight, I didn't argue with her. "How bad can it get mom?" I asked. Within hours, I got an answer from mother nature.

The night of Independence Day should have gone by with some discussions about India's future, current governance and a bit of history. Instead, it was filled with efforts to shift household items to a higher ground, away from the water that was plotting to intrude our home.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Peringavu area in Thrissur city is a low-lying area but for many years, it has never seen the water level rising. It's not near any river or hill but water from Peechi Dam was a looming threat. Neighbours were panicking too at this point. There was an elderly couple with them that needed help. A fire brigade official came by around 2 am and asked whether we wanted to move to a camp. "Now? At this hour? How bad can it get?" I thought.

Many of our possessions like fridge, washing machine and many such items — much like the possessions of a middle class family — were all left behind. Documents, money, clothes, food and drinking water. Those were the priorities. Nobody anticipated how bad the flood could get. Nobody was trained for such disaster management. There were no emergency kits, no stock dry food and no warning.

Emergency numbers were busy, fire brigade and police officials were doing all the could. We couldn't complain. There were other families facing worse conditions. Families with pregnant women, infants, elderly and sick ones. All we could do was keep a watch on the water level by looking at the rings of the coconut tree across from our home.

At around noon, officials and civilians came by for rescue. There was no electricity. Saving battery was also a priority. People who were six feet tall were struggling to find a footing in those muddy waters. Flow was gaining momentum. Rescuing all these families would be a great challenge. Tubes were thrown to help people float. Ropes were tied to help people navigate. Getting into those muddy water was a scary process.

It was cold. Who knows what that water contained? My parents, who are senior citizens, had never seen such a disaster before. Watching them struggling in the water was one of the most painful things I've ever watched. Dad was saying how such experiences should make us stronger. He was shivering when he said that. I didn't know how to respond. Houses will definitely suffer damage. Parents who worked hard for them will definitely be more hurt. All I could do was watch, not even console.

I did learn, however, that calamities can unite people. In front of nature, it doesn't matter which caste or class you come from. All will huddle together to get safety. Your hands will be holding on to your family or strangers. When water levels further rose, the lorry that was supposed to rescue us got delayed. For almost an hour, we stood in that cold water, rich and poor together. There were even dogs with us who had no clue what was going on.

Nobody could see what was flowing between their legs. Nobody knew which wastes were mixed with that water. Nobody cared. Life was far too important. Officials were telling us to calm down. Finally, when the lorry came, we were taken to a camp in Pallimoola. Rain was still pouring, as if to remind us of her presence from time to time.

In the camp, there were student volunteers who helped people to their maximum capacity. They were helping people in whatever way they could, with food, hot tea and clothes. The church which hosted us gave all their facilities and medical help. I came to realise how lucky we were. Yes, we had to face the water, but there are others across the state who lost their loved ones and homes. How will they be facing all this? There were people stranded with no food and water for almost 48 hours. Will someone get to them?

I'm thankful to people of Kerala and neighbouring states. I cannot forget how hard working the police, fire brigade personnel and civilians were.

The state could have been better prepared, considering how advanced the technology to predict weather is now. People could have been given more information. Currently, there's a shortage of clean water, food and medicines in many places. Many flood relief centres themselves are getting flooded. Some people are calling television channels to ask for help because there is no one else to hear them out. Some districts have been cut off due to communication issues.

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Updated Date: Aug 18, 2018 23:47:10 IST

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