I took an overnight sleeper bus from Bangalore to Chennai on Sunday night and arrived bright and early on Monday morning. I was welcomed by Gayatri and her yellow lab Juno who graciously agreed to host me for the first few days. After settling in and having some breakfast, we went out to the neighborhood of Kotturpuram, which was one of the areas hit the hardest. Most of the water had receded last night at low tide, so the neighborhood was enjoying a few minutes of sunshine and trying to air out. Boats were (mostly) sitting on visible pavement and rag pickers were beginning to clear some of the bigger pieces of debris.
I knew social media was playing a huge role in the relief and rescue efforts, but I was able to immediately see first-hand just how much it helps. Facebook immediately knew that I was in Chennai and asked me to confirm my status to “safe” so everyone would know – pretty cool. Gayatri has been driving out with friends the past few days to deliver supplies to those in need. I am intrigued by the logistics of the entire effort, which it turns out, are almost 100% social media as well. Both she and her friend quickly scanned their Twitter and Facebook feeds to see who had posted using specific hashtags to request supplies. Someone had asked for blankets. We perused other forms of social media, found someone that had blankets, but the platform was so efficient that by the time we found a solution, someone else had already delivered the blankets and we were back to searching for new requests.
As we were walking around, we stumbled upon a makeshift clinic in need of volunteers. Bingo. I hung out there for most of the day doing basic triage and crowd control while Gayatri had some meetings. Two doctors got together to set up this street side clinic – they plan to run it 24/7 for the next week at least. They are set up to deal with all of your basic cold, flu, gastro issues, minor wounds, dehydration, etc. I was even interviewed by the local news station while I was there…though I forgot to ask which one. They interviewed the doctor and some of the local volunteers as well, but each time they asked me to sit next to the person being interviewed – got to have the white girl in the shot. I will head back to the clinic tomorrow as well.
I’ll talk about this more later in the week, but I want to mention now how awesome the people of Chennai are. I heard story after story of people helping one another. It is pretty awesome to see such compassion among such tragedy.
Stay tuned for Day 2 where I’ll explain why and how the flood actually happened, some photos of the areas hit the hardest and of course my daily adventures. Also, please consider to the relief efforts here.