Chennai Floods & Prepping

Read these first:-

I am still on hiatus, hopefully not for long

Chennai-flood-EPS

(Image source: http://www.newindianexpress.com)

Let’s talk about prepping which is another key aspect of this blog (the other is how Malaysians drive on the road and of course politics) and on the recent disaster in Chennai, India.

The 2015 South Indian floods resulted from heavy rainfall during the annual northeast monsoon in November–December 2015. They affected the Coromandel Coast region of the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and the union territory of Puducherry, with Tamil Nadu and the city of Chennai particularly hard-hit.

More than 400 people were killed and over 1.8 million people were displaced. With estimates of damages and losses ranging from over ₹20000 crore (US$3 billion) to ₹100000 crore (US$15 billion), the floods are the costliest to have occurred in 2015, and are among the costliest natural disasters of the year. The flooding has been attributed to the El Niño phenomenon during the El Niño year of 2015.

(Source)

I have friends, colleagues and distant relatives who are working and staying in Chennai and I know they have been badly hit by the flood.

For past 3-4 days of flooding, they had no electricity, running water, access to cooked food & drinking water, access to ATM and petrol and in some serious cases, even a place to stay. There had been reports of scores of people who had made it to the high grounds with just the clothes that they had wearing. They lost everything. It was a wreck to see small kids among those camped out waiting for the flood water to recede. An ideal doomsday scenario. And it is not over yet, the massive cleanup and getting back to the daily routine before the tragedy will take time and a lot of money and resources.

One cannot deny that Malaysia too is facing similar scenario on a daily basis but where credit is due and perhaps because we have been dealing yearly flooding since day 1, the response time and pre-flood emergency preparations by Malaysian Government seems to be much better than of the Tamil Nadu State Government.

Several flood mitigation initiatives have been undertaken by the various agencies, particularly the Department of Irrigation and Drainage, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Among such projects are the construction of flood plains, cantilever walls, tidal barrages, tidal gates, river channels and levees, pumping stations, debris removal systems, monsoon drains, retention and detention ponds, and dams.

The most high-profile mega project was the Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART) in Kuala Lumpur. Several forecasting warning system also exist to predict flooding instances, such as flood maps, telemetric rainfall stations, telemetric water level stations, manual stick gauges, flood warning boards, flood sirens, weather radar, satellites, and real-time flood forecasting warning systems.

(Source : Centre for Public Policy Studies)

At the end of the day, it is all about preparation, preparation and preparation and a good sense of paranoia (yes believe in Murphy’s law)

And talking about prepping for flood, it is crucial to have a good pre-flood planning and there must be at least 1 bug-out-bag prepped upfront before the flood and be ready with all the essential items.

The American Red Cross suggest these items to be available – packed and ready to go in case one need to evacuate the home:-

Water—at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
Flashlight
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
Extra batteries
First Aid kit
Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
Multi-purpose tool
Sanitation and personal hygiene items
Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
Cell phone with chargers
Family and emergency contact information
Extra cash
Emergency blanket
Map(s) of the area
Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
Tools/supplies for securing your home
Extra set of car keys and house keys
Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
Rain gear
Insect repellent and sunscreen
Camera for photos of damage

(Source)

hdcc_map_floods

(Future of global flooding – it is not going to end there. Source)

And that had me thinking on how early prepping could have made some difference in the aftermath of the worst flooding that Chennai had faced. Let’s list out the immediate concerns of the Chennai flood victims and then go back and see what they could have done or rather need to do for the next on-slaught of a similar flooding in the coming years.

1. Lack of Shelter

If there is risk of flooding, the first rule of risk management recommends risk avoidance and if not possible, at least some sense of risk mitigation. If possible, ensure the house is sitting on high grounds (not necessarily be on top of hills) or at least the foundation is higher than the rest.

In Chennai, whilst it is not possible for someone to look for hills to build houses but the other option available is staying in multi storey building. However even though those who had more than 1 floor of occupied space spared better but without electricity and running water, staying out longer would not been feasible

2. Lack of Food & Drinking Water

With most shops flooded, no running water and access roads blocked, many have to make do with whatever food they managed to salvage. Interestingly there was a piece in the news where the flood victims had no water to drink but alcohol selling shops up and running and having a booming business. In times of dire, it was astounding to know that alcohol is readily available than drinking water which means the liquor sellers were far more efficient than the state government.

To make things worse, shops that had food and water for sale, started selling them for exorbitant price.

And that means in the future, the residents must get ready with their bug out bag stocked with drinking water for at least 48 hours.

3. Lack of Money / Access to ATM

When disaster strikes, resources will be scare and limited and there will be people will to kill others to get access to these limited resources. And those who have that limited resources – shelter, food, water, medicines, transportation, etc will definitely take advantage of the situation (and they did in Chennai, big time).

Having money at hand will be a big, big advantage

4. Lack of Clothes for Change

Imagine this – your house is flooded and you had to abandon it to high grounds. You only managed to grab a few items before it becomes too late. You make it to high ground and you are wet, tired and cold and it is dark outside. And it starts to rain again and it does so for the next 2-3 days.

Trust me, having a change of clean, dry clothes goes a long way to comfort you and somehow replenish you spiritually for days ahead.

5. Lost of Important Documents

One rule that I enforce in the house is that all import documents are properly filed with a plastic cover and when the time comes to leave the house due to an emergency, we know where the documents are and easier to grab and leave. Having important documents especially identification documents is crucial especially aftermath when one need to get back on the routine.

6. Lack of Means of Transportation

The key advise here is to keep track of the news & updates on the weather and the local happenings. This is one reason why I am religiously watch the news first thing in the morning and before going to bed and ensure I get updates from other sources.

I am not sure if early warning was given before it was too late to do anything.

There were reports of people not getting sufficient warning and they only had minutes before it was too late to do anything. Scores of tourists from Malaysia were stranded in Chennai and missed their flights out from the country. Another aspect of transportation is the lack of fuel for the car / motorcycle. With the flood, there is a complete shutdown of the petrol stations around the city and even if they are opened, they don’t have the supply replenished in time. It is time to ensure that there is enough fuel in the vehicles at any one time and workout the alternate route and mode of transportation when roads are closed.

7. Lack of Communication

Even if you have a working telecommunications line working, if your phone battery is dead, you are back to square one and you know how power hungry smartphones are. A dead phone may even end up dangerous option if you are unable to call for help. And with family members separated, it is important to inform others where you are now and whether you are safe or not and if you need any help. Spare battery and power banks are life savers in this modern age and some power banks even now comes with option to charge using solar energy.

Now Chennai is getting back on its feet and there is a massive clean up before things can go back to routine (of course with a lot of finger pointing politically). The same in Malaysia – until today victims of flood is the East Coast still struggling and have not gone back to home. But the reality of things is this – such massive flood is not going to end and with a drastic change in the global weather over the past years, it is only a start.

It is time for preparation – this is not the end of things for sure

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